August 13/Blood Weekly-- Dark chocolate has come to be recognized for its flavanol antioxidant benefits, but a new study, conducted by the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center, has uncovered an important link to its vascular health benefits. The study, which used Hershey's Extra Dark Chocolate, reported that dark chocolate has a positive impact on blood pressure and blood vessel function. The study's release comes on the heels of Hershey's Extra Dark Chocolate, a rich dark chocolate featuring 60% cacao, earning renowned health and fitness expert Bob Greene's Best Life seal of approval -- the first chocolate bar to earn that distinction.

"The Hershey Company is continuously looking for opportunities to offer products that support the balanced lifestyles of today's health-conscious consumers," said Debra Miller, Ph.D., Director of Nutrition, The Hershey Company. "This one-two punch of the Yale-Griffin research confirming chocolate's vascular health benefits, combined with Bob Greene's Best Life seal, makes Hershey's Extra Dark Chocolate a sensible option for people looking for small indulgences."

The Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center study is the largest study of its kind to research the short-term benefits of solid dark chocolate and cocoa containing beverages on blood pressure and endothelial function (blood vessel function). The results of the study, recently published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that consuming Hershey's Extra Dark Chocolate (75g) as well as Hershey's Natural Cocoa (22g) lowered blood pressure and improved endothelial function in 45 participants TWO hours after consumption.

"Our study demonstrated impressive enhancement of endothelial function following the acute consumption of dark chocolate and cocoa," said David L. Katz, MD, MPH, principal investigator of the study and director of the Prevention Research Center. "The results are exciting because they show that dark chocolate, a highly-popular treat long associated with pleasure, has health promoting properties as well."

In addition, The Hershey Company announced that Hershey's Extra Dark Chocolate is the first chocolate bar to earn the respected Best Life seal of approval. Designed by Bob Greene, respected exercise physiologist and famed trainer, the Best Life seal appears on select grocery products and is intended to help consumers make healthier food and lifestyle decisions. Hershey's Extra Dark Chocolate's naturally occurring antioxidants and proven vascular health benefits helped the product to earn this distinction. Bob Greene will utilize Hershey's Extra Dark Chocolate and Hershey's Natural Cocoa as he helps consumers to develop balanced, healthy lifestyles through his book, The Best Life Diet, the companion website, appearances on The Oprah Winfrey Show and other national television and radio shows, and national tours.

From the August 18, 2008, Prepared Foods e-Flash