Who would have thought that chocolate could be good for you? That’s right – the rich, tasty little treat that we all know and love has some astounding benefits for our health. However, it may not be in the usual candy form we’re familiar with.

chocolateHealth-Boosting Cocoa Compounds

Flavanols and polyphenols, compounds which occur naturally in cocoa beans, have been proven to increase our blood flow and consequently give our vascular health a boost. Some research has also suggested that these compounds can stimulate better nitric oxide production in the body, which in turn causes blood vessels to dilate. With improved blood flow, the risk of conditions such as heart attack, heart disease and stroke diminishes.

Although this can make our chocolate consumption seem virtuous, we can’t use it as an excuse to overindulge in the sugary treat. Most of us tend to enjoy chocolate in its unhealthiest form, when it is combined with calorific milk fat and refined sugars to become an irresistible candy. The problem with this is that we should be keeping high-sugar, high-calorie foods to a minimum in order to stay healthy and keep obesity at bay. Dark chocolate, which tends to contain less sugar and fat, is a healthier option, but even then, excessive consumption can lead to weight gain.

Chocolate Pills Could Be the Answer

So, how can we access all the health benefits of cocoa without overindulging in unhealthy chocolate candy bars? A group of researchers may have the answer. The COSMOS study, which is being partially funded and supported by food and candy manufacturer Mars Inc, is currently recruiting for volunteers to allow them to test the efficacy of cocoa extract capsules. The capsules will contain all those vital compounds to keep us healthy with non of the calories (or taste, sadly) of chocolate. In fact, each pill will have the same amount of extract as you would get eating roughly 1,000 calories’ worth of dark chocolate.

The study will revolve around only men over the age of 60 and women over the age of 65, since it is at this age that the risk of health problems tends to increase. Half of the participants will take the cocoa extract pill, and the other half a placebo, and rigorous testing will take place to compare the health of each study group over time.

Stick with Moderate Amounts of Dark Chocolate for Now

With recruiting still going on for the study, it looks like it could be some time before we know whether chocolate pills are an effective, health-boosting supplement. However, until then, there’s certainly no harm in a little chocolate here and there as research has shown a correlation between healthy cardiovascular systems and eating chocolate. Just be sure to indulge in moderation, and make sure it’s dark chocolate rather than the sugar- and fat-laden milk and white chocolate varieties.