Categorized | Food, Medicine, Research

Cocoa May Lower Blood Pressure

coffee-machineA new home remedy for lowering blood pressure may be to eat cocoa daily! Harvard professor Norman Hollenberg has found evidence that cocoa rich in flavanols, antioxidant compounds found in cocoa beans, improves blood flow which may help people fighting a range of diseases, including hypertension.

His discovery began as a study into the genetics of a small, isolated Caribbean Indian tribe in which hypertension was virtually nonexistent. He quickly found that their resistance was not genetic, as tribe members who had integrated themselves into other societies no longer had the same resistance to high blood pressure. Hollenberg decided to study the lifestyle of the Kuna tribe, “The most outstanding finding was the fact that most them consume cocoa as their major drink and do so every day,” according to Hollenberg, “Many Kuna, in that hot and humid climate, probably drink more than five cups per day.”

Research into Kuna cocoa reveled that it is much higher in flavanols than other more processed cocoas. Hollenberg believes that flavanols activate the positive production of nitric oxide in the body which, as part of the body’s regulatory system, improves the flow of blood and oxygen to major organs including the heart. Flavanols are also found in red wine and may play a role in the beverage’s ability to lower the risk of heart disease. (Cromie)

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association investigated the effects consuming a small amount of commercially available dark chocolate, which contained flavanols, on blood pressure. For 18 weeks 22 people who had either normal blood pressure or were pre-hypertensive, ate dark chocolate with flavanols and 22 similar individuals ate white chocolate without flavanols. The portions were only about 6 grams daily. At the end of the period, those who ate the dark chocolate showed a 2.9 mmHg drop for the systolic or top number and 1.9 mmHg for the diastolic. There were no negative effects on weight or cholesterol, and those who ate the white chocolate showed no change in their blood pressure. Cocoa flavanols were actually found in the bloodstream of those who ate the dark chocolate. (American Heart Association)

According to authors of the study, “adoption of small amounts of flavanol-rich cocoa into the habitual diet is a dietary modification that is easy to adhere to and may be a promising behavioral approach to lower blood pressure in individuals with above-optimal blood pressure.”(American Heart Association)

Sources:
Cromie, William J. “Cocoa shows promise as next wonder drug”. February 22, 2007. Harvard University Gazette. Retrieved September 11, 2008 from http://www.news.harvard.edu/gazette/2007/02.22/01-cocoa.html.
“Effects of Low Habitual Cocoa Intake on Blood Pressure and Bioactive Nitric Oxide”. July 4, 2007. American Heart Association. Retrieved September 15, 2008 from http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=3050004.

 



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