Dark chocolate helps lower blood pressure

August 3, 2005 in Heart Health, Nutrition Topics in the News

Dark chocolate helps lower blood pressure

Great news for chocolate lovers! According to a recent study published by the American Heart Association, dark chocolate has been shown to lower blood pressure. This study joins a growing body of research to show that flavonoids, natural compounds found in dark chocolate, can help the blood vessels work more smoothly, potentially reducing the risk of heart disease.

Researchers at the University of L'Aquila in Italy studied 20 participants with high blood pressure. For 15 days, half of the participants ate 100 grams of flavonoid-rich dark chocolate, while the other half ate the same amount of white chocolate, which contains no flavonoids. After 15 days each group switched and consumed the other type of chocolate.

When study participants ate the special dark chocolate, they had a 12 mm Hg decrease in systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading) and a 9 mm Hg decrease in diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) on average. Blood pressure did not change when the volunteers ate white chocolate.

Previous studies have shown that other flavonoid-rich foods, such as fruits, vegetables, tea, red wine and chocolate, might offer cardiovascular benefits. However, this is one of the first clinical trials of its kind to look specifically at dark chocolate's effect on lowering blood pressure among people with hypertension.

Despite the encouraging news for chocolate lovers, researchers stress that this study is not about eating more chocolate, rather these findings suggest that cocoa flavonoids appear to have benefits on vascular function. In addition, nutritionists urge people to be cautious because chocolate is high in fat, sugar and calories.

The dark chocolate used in this study had high level of flavonoids, giving it a slightly bittersweet taste. Researchers note that most North Americans eat milk chocolate, which has a low amount of these protective compounds. If you

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