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Chocolate Boosts Walking Ability

By Dr. Mehmet Oz and Dr. Mike Roizen, MDs

"Chocolate Soldier" was the nickname of a 1930s track-devouring thoroughbred named Equipoise; Chocolate Candy was a flashy, high-stepping contender in the 2009 Belmont Stakes; and 85 Percent Dark Chocolate? Well, if you're dealing with peripheral artery disease, bet on that long-striding contender, pronto. You might just hit a daily double: walking farther and faster than you previously thought possible!

PAD, a form of arterial aging, affects around 12 million North Americans, making it painful to walk, upping the risk of blood clots, stroke and heart attack, and, for people with diabetes, increasing the risk of amputation. It develops when plaque clogs the arteries that convey blood from the heart to your legs (or arms, head, or kidneys). Without a good supply of oxygen, muscles struggle to work, you feel pain and numbness, and it becomes harder for the body to fight infection.

But researchers recently discovered that eating around 1.4 ounces of 85 percent cacao chocolate can quickly reduce pain and inflammation in your legs — perhaps by relaxing blood vessels and improving blood flow. After eating dark chocolate, study participants walked 11 percent farther and 15 percent longer than they could earlier that day! So dodge added sugars and sugar syrups in prepared and processed foods, and embrace the taste of dark chocolate.

Now, even if PAD has made you sit out the race, you can ride to greater activity on dark chocolate. We recommend 1 ounce of 70 percent (or higher) cacao chocolate daily, and keep walking as far as you can, adding to your distance every day.