Why chocolate could be just as good for the heart as high blood pressure drugs

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Cocoa proves to be highly beneficial for cardiovascular health — but that doesn’t mean you should be stocking up on chocolate bars.

GUILDFORD, United Kingdom — Studies continue to show that cocoa flavanols can lower blood pressure and arterial stiffness just like the best blood pressure medications. However, scientists have had some concern that consuming cocoa when your blood pressure is normal or low could lower it even further. Now, a new study finds there’s nothing to worry about! Researchers in Australia say cocoa only lowers blood pressure when it’s abnormally high.

The new study notes that previous experiments have only looked at cocoa’s beneficial impact on the heart under tightly controlled conditions. This has made it unclear as to whether cocoa also lowers blood pressure in already healthy people. For people who love chocolate, this doesn’t mean you should run out to the store and buy a case of Hershey bars. Chocolate that contains higher levels of cocoa will be the most beneficial — but don’t forget that chocolate treats can also contain high levels of sugar and fat. Any thoughts of using cocoa for lowering blood pressure should be discussed with your doctor first.

Researchers from University of Surrey says their study is one of the first to look at cocoa consumption and its impact on the heart in a real-world scenario.

“High blood pressure and arterial stiffness increases a person’s risk of heart disease and strokes, so it is crucial that we investigate innovative ways to treat such conditions,” says Christian Heiss, a professor of cardiovascular medicine, in a university release.

“Before we even consider introducing cocoa into clinical practices, we need to test if the results previously reported in laboratory settings safely translate into real-world settings, with people going about their everyday lives.”

Cuckoo for cocoa: Your gut loves metabolizing chocolate

In their study, 11 healthy people consumed six cocoa flavanol capsules or six placebo capsules on alternate days for a week. Each participant received an upper arm blood pressure monitor and a finger clip measuring pulse wave velocity (PWV) — which gauges a patient’s arterial stiffness.

The group took these readings every 30 minutes after consuming cocoa or the brown sugar placebos for three hours. They continued to monitor their blood pressure and pulse wave velocity hourly for another nine hours after that.

READ: 5 Health Benefits Of Eating Chocolate — Yes, It’s Good For You, According To Science

Results show that consuming cocoa only led to lower blood pressure and arterial stiffness in participants where those readings were already high. There was no effect when blood pressure was low in the morning.

Moreover, the study was also the first to find an additional peak in cocoa’s beneficial effect eight hours after consumption. The team believes this second peak in the readings likely has a connection to how bacteria in the gut metabolizes cocoa flavanols.

“The positive impact cocoa flavanols have on our cardiovascular system, in particular, blood vessel function and blood pressure, is undeniable. Doctors often fear that some blood pressure tablets can decrease the blood pressure too much on some days,” Prof. Heiss concludes. “What we have found indicates that cocoa flavanols only decrease blood pressure if it is elevated. Working with participants’ personal health technologies showed us how variable blood pressure and arterial stiffness can be from day to day and shows the role of personal health monitors in developing and implementing effective personalized care.”

Previous research has shown that eating chocolate in the morning can actually help individuals burn fat faster. The study finds eating chocolate for breakfast can increase fat burning ability. It also reduces blood glucose levels, a key measure for people at risk from diabetes. At night, eating chocolate before bed led to changes in the participants’ resting and exercise metabolism the following morning.

The study is published in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition.

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About the Author

Chris Melore

Chris Melore has been a writer, researcher, editor, and producer in the New York-area since 2006. He won a local Emmy award for his work in sports television in 2011.

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  1. A mere 11 subjects in the study? A sample size (N=30 or greater) is usually needed to conduct scientific analysis. I love dark chocolate, and know there are good and substantiated health benefits from its consumption, but a sample size of 11 seems quite small….

  2. I concur Lee. The sample size, in my opinion, would even preclude much more than offering the abstract (of the research) being published. Though millions may stand to benefit, the article sounds as if a valid, double-blind placebo-controlled study has been performed with a statistically significant N. If 100% achieve the theorized benefit, with this small N, I would strongly have stated that further testing is merited. I also understand the pressures on to publish work to further their endeavors/funding. Next thing you know, Big Pharma will be buying out all cocoa powder manufacturers. LOL

    1. I have been on cocoa therapy for my entire life. I’m afraid to stop for fear of becoming depressed.

  3. Along those same lines of dark chocolate, what percentage of cocoa do you need?
    Are we talking milk chocolate, dark chocolate, white chocolate, chocolate milk, etc?
    What is “six cocoa flavanol capsules”? What are these capsules makeup?
    Do you eat it right before going to the Dr.?
    I have 2 bags of Nestle Crunch at home. They don’t last long, but…

    1. If you read the study it says participants were given capsules containing 862 mg of cocoa flavanols. A quick Google search on ‘cocoa flavanols’ turns up all sorts of hits. Amazon appears to have several products, with CocoVia Cardio Health Supplements being one of them. The CocoVia has 500 mg of cocoa flavanols per capsule. They’re not cheap, about 67 cents per capsule, but I suppose that’s a lot cheaper than a Snickers bar. LOL!

  4. I had thought this was common knowledge. Back about 12 years ago, when my father had chronically low blood pressure and my mother had white coat high blood pressure, I used to give my father chicken boullion to raise his and my mother chocolate to lower hers before the home health nurse visited. Maybe the inspiration for these studies comes when they find out what people are actually doing, and want to make a move to ban or patent it.

    1. Exactly my sentiment. And big pharma planted this report or paid to have it done or, most likely, BOTH.

    2. What happens when someone who take highblood pressure medication, eats chocolate? Seems to me that might cause their blood pressure to become too low. So there should be caution given to people taking blood pressure medication, & eating chocolate. Wouldn’t this be considered the same as two drug interactions?

  5. Public reads headline and mentally justifies buying Hersey type milk chocolate, but what they should be buying is 86-92 percent cocoa.

    1. The study says participants were given capsules containing 862 mg of CF (Cocoa Flavanols).

  6. Sorry but no way. This is total BS. I can literally feel Clonodine taking effect and can messier the drop after. You can do that with a snickers bar. Click-bait.

    1. Good thing they didn’t say Snickers bars worked for this, but chocolate that actually contains high levels of cocoa (other recent studies have shown 70% or higher). So like you said, a Snickers bar fat and sugar bomb won’t work.

  7. Are we all supposed to go get chocolate now because that’s one of the items people are not buying in the age of tornado-flation?
    I thought turmeric solved every problem in the world. A sprinkle is good on bratwurst but I’m not going to consume it by the lawnmower hopper-full. One aspirin makes my ears ring like a seagull squealing. Coffee benefits are biased due to the people addicted to the psychoactive substance and the market monsters…Coffee uhm, may be causing road rage and snap opinions, flip comments and social discontent. I am serious.

  8. This article as it is presented is irresponsible in my opinion. The caveat about checking with your physician before employing chocolate as a treatment for hypertension is one sentence at the end of the second paragraph. I guarantee that some people will decide to stop taking antihypertensive medication or avoid consulting a physician about their hypertension based upon the large print headline. It’s nice to know about chocolate though.

  9. Terrible study. The cure for heart disease, cancer, and many other diseases is to reduce the inflammation in your body. Everyone should check their hs-CRP levels and keep them under 3.0

    The only antioxidant is known to wipe out inflammation in your body indeed is a liposomal form of Astaxanthin in high doses. I took 120mg a day of Valasta (best brand) and my inflammation CRP went from 6 to 2. Disease, cancer, etc cannot thrive if your CRP is low.

    Sugar / fructose creates severe inflammation in the body and should be avoided. It was introduced into our food supply in the 60’s in almost everything. Why has cancer jumped from 1 in 72 people to 1 in 2? Keep your sugar intake under 5 grams per 100 grams of food you intake and take Valasta daily and you will most likely never see disease or cancer in your life. Even if you have cancer this will stop the process of it.

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