Chocolate and cocoa does not help for arterial stiffness

Cocoa intake does not necessarily improve arterial stiffness despite being related to a lower cardiovascular risk, researchers say.

According to a study published in Nutrition Journal, Spanish researchers have investigated the relationship between cocoa consumption and arterial stiffness in individuals with cardiovascular risk factors and reported that their findings did not indicate cocoa intake had any influence on arterial stiffness values.

Many clinical studies have suggested that consuming cocoa can benefit the cardiovascular system, especially lowering blood pressure and improving the function of the cells lining the blood vessel and this benefit is said to have been derived from flavonoids, a group of antioxidant compounds also found in cocoa and some fruits and vegetables.

Jose Ignacio Recio-Rodriguez, from the La Alemdilla Health Centre’s Primary Care Research Unit and University of Salamanca in Spain, said: “However, the relationship of usual cocoa consumption to arterial stiffness parametres and central blood pressure is not clear, although intake has been linked to a lower prevalence of atherosclerotic plaques in carotid arteries. The relationship… has only been studied in healthy individuals without cardiovascular risk factors.

“The purpose of this study is to analyse the relationship of coco intake to central and peripheral blood pressure, arterial stiffness, and carotid intima-media thickness in subjects with some cardiovascular risk”.

As part of the study, 351 participants with a mean age of 54.7 years were examined. The data of each person’s cocoa intake and other foods was collected using a food frequency questionnaire.

The participants’ office and ambulatory blood pressure, central and peripheral blood pressure, pulse wave velocity were measured and researchers used carotid ultrasonography to assess intima-media thickness. All people had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity, or smoking.

The results revealed that pulse wave velocity (the measure of arterial stiffness) was high and cardiovascular risk was greater among non-cocoa consumers than high cocoa consumers.

Nevertheless, after adjusting for age, gender, diabetes, systolic blood pressure and lipid-lowering drug use, these differences vanished. The other arterial stiffness measures did not reflect a difference between the consumption groups.

Recio-Rodiguez and the researchers added: “There are several possible explanations for these results. In our study, the three groups of cocoa intake are very heterogeneous with differences in age, gender and the proportion of subjects with antihypertensive and lipid-lowering drugs. This fact many influence the results”.

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