Dark Chocolate reducing blood pressure

Cocoa found in dark chocolate can reduce blood pressure in the short term and could potentially protect against cardiovascular disease.

According to a recently released study, dark daily chocolate or cocoa powder consumption was seen to cut blood pressure compared to a control group.

The review follows The European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA) issue about a positive opinion on a health claim from chocolate manufacturer Barry Callebaut connecting cocoa to improved blood flow, a move deemed “encouraging” for the confectionery industry.

Karin Ried, of the National Institute of Integrative Medicine in Melbourne, Australia, said: “Although we don’t yet have evidence for any sustained decrease in blood pressure, the small reduction we saw over the short term might complement other treatment options and might contribute to reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease”.

She said that longer term trials were needed to assess the effects on stroke and heart disease risk and determine any poetical side-effects of long term consumption.

She added: “These trials should use flavanol-free products in the control groups to eliminate any potential effects of low-dose flavanol on blood pressure”.

Australian researchers performed 20 trials on 856 people by giving them 30-1080 mg of flavanols in 3-100g of chocolate lasting two to eight weeks.

The research team discovered that high flavanol chocolate or cocoa powder reduced blood pressure on average by 2-3mm Hg.

Cocoa compounds called flavanols are thought to increase amounts of nitric acid in the body, which causes blood vessel walls to relax and open, consequently cutting blood pressure.

Cocoa had been thought to provide blood pressure benefits after it was discovered that the natives of San Blas Island in Central American, who drink flavanol-rich cocoa drinks every day, had normal blood pressure regardless of age.

Around one fourth of people in the 2 trials reported adverse effects of cocoa/chocolate consumption, such as gastrointestinal complaints and distaste of the trial product. Only 1% of patients in the control groups reported complaints in comparison.

The research team said it was difficult to determine the amount of chocolate needed to lower blood pressure as flavanol levels in chocolate can be different depending on changes dhuring the manufacturing process.

Dark chocolate has a higher concentration of cocoa flavanols compared to milk or white chocolate, around over two-thirds, said an earlier study.

The research team of the current study said that lower flavanol chocolate, such as milk or white varieties, may have some minor beneficial effect on blood pressure, but a subset of trials evaluated had shorter trial periods and participants knew their allocated group.


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