HealthDay News — Cocoa consumption may improve walking performance in individuals with peripheral artery disease (PAD), according to a study published online Feb. 14 in Circulation Research.

Mary M. McDermott, M.D., from the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, and colleagues conducted a phase II randomized clinical trial to compare the impact of six months of cocoa to placebo for walking performance in participants with PAD. Participants were randomly assigned to either a cocoa beverage containing 15 g cocoa and 75 mg epicatechin daily or a placebo beverage containing neither cocoa nor epicatechin.

Forty of the 44 participants who were randomized completed follow-up. The researchers found that at six-month follow-up, compared with placebo, cocoa improved six-minute walk distance by 42.6 m (90 percent confidence interval, +22.2 to +∞; P = 0.005) at 2.5 hours after a final study beverage and by 18.0 m (90 percent confidence interval, −1.7 to +∞; P = 0.12) at 24 hours after a study beverage in analyses adjusted for smoking, race, and body mass index. Compared with placebo, coca improved mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase activity, increased capillary density, improved calf muscle perfusion, and reduced central nuclei in calf muscle biopsies.

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“If our results are confirmed in a larger trial, these findings suggest that cocoa, a relatively inexpensive, safe and accessible product, could potentially produce significant improvements in calf muscle health, blood flow, and walking performance for PAD patients,” McDermott said in a statement.

Two authors disclosed financial ties to the biotechnology industry.

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