Chocolate 'lowers blood pressure'

 

Merely thinking of chocolate may set pulses racing, but research suggests it can actually lower blood pressure.

Daily consumption of dark chocolate or cocoa powder caused a slight reduction in blood pressure readings, a review of study evidence showed.

Although the effect was small, it was potentially enough to help protect people from heart disease, said experts.

Scientists analysed data from trials in which people consumed daily helpings of dark chocolate or cocoa powder. The chocolate products contained varying amounts of plant compounds called flavanols that are believed to benefit health.

A total of 856 people took part in 20 trials lasting an average of two to eight weeks. The most flavanol-rich chocolate or cocoa was found to lower blood pressure by an average of two to three millimetres of mercury.

When chocolate or cocoa powder was compared with flavanol-free products, the beneficial effects were more pronounced.

In this case, blood pressure reductions of up to four millimetres of mercury were seen.

The findings are published in the latest issue of The Cochrane Library, a collection of studies aimed at informing health care policy.

Lead researcher Dr Karin Ried, from 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."

Flavanols in cocoa, the raw material from which chocolate is made, are believed to boost levels of nitric oxide in the body.

This in turn causes blood vessels to relax and widen, thereby reducing blood pressure, say scientists.

The link between cocoa and blood pressure first emerged from the indigenous people of San Blas Island in Central America. They drink flavanol-rich cocoa drinks every day and have normal blood pressure regardless of age.

Flavanol concentrations in cocoa and chocolate vary greatly between different products.

Longer trials are needed before conclusions could be drawn about the effects of cocoa flavanols on heart disease and stroke risk, said Dr Ried.

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."

Ideally, an adult's blood pressure should be below 140/85mmHg (millimetres of mercury). The first figure is the systolic reading, which refers to the pressure with each heart beat. The second, the diastolic reading, measures the "resting" pressure between beats.

The British Heart Association warned of the downside of eating chocolate - large numbers of calories.

Victoria Taylor, senior dietician at the charity, said: "Although this review showed a small reduction in blood pressure, the findings are hampered by a lack of consistency between the studies. It's difficult to tell exactly what sort of quantities of flavanol-rich cocoa would be needed to observe a beneficial effect and the best way for people to obtain it.

"With most of the studies carried out over a short period of time it's also not possible to know for sure whether the benefits could be sustained in the long term. The 100g of chocolate that had to be consumed daily in a number of the studies would also come with 500 calories - that's a quarter of a woman's recommended daily intake.

"Beans, apricots, blackberries and apples also contain flavanols and, while containing lower amounts than in cocoa, they won't come with the unhealthy extras found in chocolate."

A small study funded by chocolate-maker Mars yesterday suggested that cocoa drinks may benefit the brain in old age.

Flavanol-rich cocoa was said to increase the mental performance of elderly volunteers after eight weeks.

PA

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
techPatent specifies 'anthropomorphic device' to control media devices
Voices
The PM proposed 'commonsense restrictions' on migrant benefits
voicesAndrew Grice: Prime Minister can talk 'one nation Conservatism' but putting it into action will be tougher
News
Ireland will not find out whether gay couples have won the right to marry until Saturday afternoon
news
News
Kim Jong-un's brother Kim Jong-chol
news
News
Manchester city skyline as seen from Oldham above the streets of terraced houses in North West England on 7 April 2015.
news
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

    £40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

    Guru Careers: Software Developer

    £35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

    Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

    £25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

    Day In a Page

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?