Dark chocolate rich in cocoa compounds called flavanols may have a surprising new health benefit. People with cirrhosis of the liver often have increased abdominal blood pressure following a meal. Scientists in Spain report that 21 patients with cirrhosis were given a meal with either dark or white chocolate. Those consuming the dark chocolate had a much smaller increase in abdominal blood pressure. Previous studies have shown that flavanols in dark chocolate encourage the blood vessels to produce nitric oxide. This compound relaxes them and lowers blood pressure. Presumably this is the mechanism behind the reduction in abdominal blood pressure as well.
[European Association for the Study of the Liver, annual meeting, Vienna, Austria, April 2010]