Chocolate lovers who were rejected from a Johns Hopkins University study on aspirin and heart disease helped researchers accidentally find an explanation for why small amounts of chocolate can cut the risk of heart attack.
Chocolate, like aspirin, has a biochemical effect that reduces the clumping of platelets, which cause blood to clot. Platelet clumping can be fatal if a clot forms and blocks a blood vessel, causing a heart attack.
Some 139 "chocolate offenders" were volunteers taking part in a 1,200-person study. The subjects were all asked to stay on a strict regimen of exercise, and to avoid smoking, caffeinated drinks, wine, grapefruit juice and chocolate, all of which are known to affect heart disease risks. The 139 cheated on their diet regimen by eating chocolate.
Although they were removed from the aspirin study, the researchers looked at their blood nonetheless. Those who ate chocolate not only had lower levels of a platelet waste product (thromboxane) in their urine, but their blood clotted more slowly than samples taken from the non-chocolate-eating patients.