Doctors could soon be prescribing a dose of chocolate to help patients with liver damage
Dark chocolate reduces damage to the blood vessels in patients who have suffered scarring on the liver due to excessive drinking or disease, new studies have found.
It also reduces blood pressure in the liver as it contains high levels of anti-oxidants which mop of damaging particles from the body.
Dark chocolate has been hailed as a superfood because of its anti-oxidant properties which have been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease and stroke.
The latest findings were presented at the International Liver Congress 2010, the Annual Meeting of the European Association for the Study of Liver in Vienna, Austria.
Prof Mark Thursz, Vice Secretary of EASL and Professor of Hepatology at Imperial College London, said: "As well as advanced technologies and high science, it is important to explore the potential of alternative sources which can contribute to the overall wellbeing of a patient.
"This study shows a clear association between eating dark chocolate and portal hypertension (high blood pressure in the liver) and demonstrates the potential importance of improvements in the management of cirrhotic patients, to minimise the onset and impact of end stage liver disease and its associated mortality risks."
After eating blood flow to the liver increases but in patients with cirrhosis this can be dangerous as blood pressure in the liver is already raised and any further significant rise may cause blood vessels to rupture and bleed.
In the study, 21 patients with end stage liver disease were randomised to receive a liquid meal containing white chocolate or one containing dark chocolate. Various measurements were taken before the meal and 30 minutes afterwards.
The dark chocolate meal caused a smaller rise in blood pressure in the liver than the white chocolate meal.
White chocolate does not contain any cocoa flavonoids which have the anti-oxidant properties, the conference was told.