Dark chocolate may lower blood pressure

March 23, 2005 in Heart Health, Nutrition Topics in the News

Dark chocolate may lower blood pressure

The results of a study from the University of L'Aquila in Italy suggests that dark chocolate may help reduce blood pressure and boost the body’s ability to metabolize sugar from food. These benefits occurred after the consumption of dark chocolate, but not white chocolate.

Investigators found that after eating only small amounts of dark chocolate every day for 15 days, healthy people had lower blood pressures and were more sensitive to insulin, an important factor in metabolizing sugar. In contrast, eating roughly the same amount of white chocolate for the same period of time did not affect either blood pressure or insulin sensitivity.

The potential health benefits of dark chocolate can be attributed to the fact that it contains high levels of a kind of antioxidant called flavonoids. Flavonoids can help maintain a healthy heart and good circulation and reduce blood clotting, which can lead to heart attacks and stroke.

Other research validates that when it comes to chocolate, type does matter. One study found that eating milk chocolate did little to raise antioxiant levels in the blood, perhaps because milk interferes with the absorption of antioxidants from chocolate. Another study showed that elderly people with high blood pressure experienced a drop in pressure after eating dark chocolate bars, but not white chocolate, which contains no flavonoids.

However, despite dark chocolate's apparent benefits, caution is urged when interpreting the results. Dark chocolate contains antioxidants, but also a lot of fat and calories, 100 grams of dark chocolate contains roughly 500 calories. Therefore people who want to add some chocolate to their diet need to subtract an equivalent amount of calories by cutting back on other foods, to avoid weight gain. .

All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.