Dark chocolate lowers blood pressure
You are usually advised not to eat chocolate if you have high blood pressure, as too much sweets can lead to obesity and thus raise blood pressure. Not so with dark chocolate. A recent study by the Polytechnic Institute of Coimbra found that regular and moderate consumption can lead to a drop in blood pressure. So-called flavanols, which are abundant in dark chocolate, are responsible for this effect.
A recent study by the Polytechnic Institute of Coimbra found that daily consumption of dark chocolate leads to a reduction in blood pressure and even within a month. The results of the study were published in the English-language journal "Nutrition".
Which chocolate is good for heart health?
While even milk chocolate has its advantages, the study found that 90 percent cocoa had the greatest effects. Dark, high-cocoa chocolate is rich in antioxidants and contains so-called flavonols. If people consume darker chocolate every day, it improves their blood pressure. Benefits from consuming chocolate have been studied extensively, particularly potential effects on heart health. Flavanols have already been associated with various health benefits, from reduced insulin resistance to weight regulation and faster wound healing. There is therefore a great deal of scientific interest in how eating flavanol-rich foods affects our well-being.
How was the study structured?
To find out how chocolate affects the heart, the researchers examined 30 healthy adult subjects between the ages of 18 and 27. For a period of 30 days, these people had to eat 20 g of chocolate a day. Half of the participants consumed chocolate with a 55 percent cocoa content. The remaining participants took chocolate made from 90 percent cocoa.
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Heart rate and arterial stiffness, as well as other values, were measured 30 days before the experiment and two days after. The participants were told that they should not consume other flavanol-rich foods such as berries, tea and wine in order not to falsify the results. A significant improvement in their blood pressure was observed in all subjects. However, the effects were particularly strong in the group that consumed the chocolate with a particularly high cocoa content.
How did the consumption of dark chocolate affect you?
Systolic pressure measures the force that occurs when the heart squeezes blood, while diastolic pressure shows the pressure when the heart is resting between beats. A normal systolic reading is between 90 and 120 mmHg and diastolic between 60 and 80 mmHg - according to the National Health Service. When the participants consumed chocolate with a high cocoa content, their systolic blood pressure dropped by 3.5 mmHg. In contrast, in the group of people who ingested chocolate with a low cocoa content, the systolic blood pressure only decreased by 2.4 mmHg. Diastolic blood pressure was reduced by 2.3 mmHg and 1.7 mmHg, respectively, by consuming chocolate. The group with the chocolate with a higher cocoa content also had healthier pulse rates and an improved so-called ventriculo-arterial coupling. This ventriculo-arterial coupling describes the interaction between the left ventricle and the arteries that together pump blood through the body. This improved interaction is believed to be due to decreased arterial pressure and vascular relaxation.
Only young people took part in the study
The researchers found that the structure of the participants' hearts had not changed. This could be due to the fact that the study only lasted for 30 days. The inclusion of only healthy young people in the study could also have reduced the detectable health effects.
It is one of the first studies on this topic to be carried out on young people. Similar studies typically looked at middle-aged adults with health conditions.
Consuming chocolate to maintain heart health
Hopefully, the results of the current study will help support chocolate consumption as a preventive measure for heart health. Further research must now find out exactly how chocolate interacts with the rest of our diet in order to influence our well-being, according to the researchers. In addition, research should also be carried out into how exactly cocoa protects the heart and how much is best to consume. (as)
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Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
- Polytechnic Institute of Coimbra, Nutrition