Liver cirrhosis, simply called cirrhosis by medical professionals, causes 10,000 to 15,000 deaths annually in the United States alone. It was recently ranked as the 12th leading cause of disease-related deaths in the country. Anything that helps a person with cirrhosis live longer is definitely good news. A recent study found some extremely interesting results on the consumption of dark chocolate: it seems that dark chocolate can actually help prolong the life of patients with cirrhosis.
The announcement was made at the Annual Meeting of the European Association for the Study of the Liver in Vienna, Austria, in April 2010. The report describes data revealing that dark chocolate reduced portal hypertension in patients with cirrhosis. It is easier to understand the research if you know what portal hypertension is and the causes of cirrhosis … When normal liver tissue is sufficiently damaged, it is replaced by fibrous scar tissue. When a sufficient amount of scar tissue replaces healthy tissue in the liver, the condition is called cirrhosis. Under normal circumstances, your liver can regenerate new cells and replace those that have been damaged. Unfortunately, the scars that accumulated in the stage of cirrhosis are irreversible. Blood cannot flow through scar tissue, so as healing progresses, liver function degrades. Eventually, the liver will fail, which is a medical emergency and a life-threatening situation. Cirrhosis is the most common cause of two causes: drinking an excessive amount of alcohol and hepatitis . No matter how you get it, cirrhosis can cause complications and very dangerous liver problems. One of these complications is a problem known as portal hypertension. Portal hypertension is a form of high blood pressure that occurs in the portal vein, which carries blood to the liver from the digestive organs. Portal hypertension can cause blockages in blood flow around the esophagus and stomach. Then the body develops veins (varicose veins) in these areas to avoid blockages. These veins are fragile and are already under considerable pressure. Breaks become more likely. Known as hemorrhagic varicose veins, such ruptures of blood vessels related to cirrhosis can be extremely dangerous.
“But published data reveal that eating bitter chocolate can reduce the risk of portal hypertension that causes hemorrhagic varices in patients with cirrhosis”.
It is typical for blood pressure in the abdominal area to rise shortly after eating. This is due to increased blood flow to the liver. This can be a dangerous time for people with cirrhosis, because they already have high blood pressure in the portal vein. Adding more pressure greatly increases the probability of a break. Dark chocolate contains many flavonoids , which are chemicals that have proven beneficial for the body, especially the heart. Flavonoids also help reduce blood pressure because they relax the veins and arteries, allowing blood to flow more easily. Many types of chocolate do not contain flavonoids, but they are certainly present in dark chocolate. In fact, the darker the chocolate, the more flavenoid content is present. Participants in this study received 85 percent dark chocolate to eat, or a meal of white chocolate that did not contain flavonoids. The researchers found that those who received dark chocolate had a statistically significant increase in portal hypertension than those who received white chocolate. These results seemed to indicate that patients with cirrhosis who consume bitter chocolate reduce the risk of rupture of blood vessels. Dark chocolate is no longer placed in the same category as other chocolates such as “candy only”. The flavonoids it contains actually make it a healthy and nutritious food when consumed moderately.
Flavonoids, in fact, offer many of the same health food benefits as dark-colored vegetables and fruits. There are eight times more flavonoids in dark chocolate than can be found in strawberries. Any person with cirrhosis should actively seek, together with their doctor, strategies to prevent portal hypertension and bleeding varicose veins, such as that mentioned or as the vegetarian diet for which studies have also been done.