There are "few treatments available to improve walking performance in people with peripheral artery disease," said Professor Mary McDermott, of Northwestern University in Chicago, USA.

Dr. Naomi Hamburg, Chair of the American Peripheral Cardiovascular Council, says: "Peripheral artery patients have difficulty walking as bad as people with advanced heart failure."

"The leg muscles do not get enough blood when peripheral arterial disease, but cocoa appears to protect the muscles and improve metabolism as well."

This follows a study that included 44 peripheral arterial disease patients over the age of 60 years, and the results concluded that those who drank hot chocolate three times per day over a period of 6 months, were able to walk an additional distance of up to 42.6 meters in the 6-day gait test Minutes after the end of the study.

However, those patients who took a placebo, suffered a reduced ability to walk, as they recorded a decrease of 24.2 meters during the test at the end of the study.

The researchers said: The flavanols, including epicatechin in cocoa and dark chocolate, have "therapeutic properties that may improve gait performance in people with peripheral arteropathy."

The team also discovered other improvements in muscle health, and an increase in the activity of mitochondria (a double-membrane cellular organism found in most eukaryotic organisms) was observed, which helps cells transfer energy from food and capillary density, which is a vital factor in delivering oxygen to tissues during exercise.

The study was conducted in people with peripheral artery disease also known as peripheral arterial disease (PAD), one of the common circulatory problems in which narrowed arteries reduce blood flow to the extremities.

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