Dark chocolate lowers blood pressure
Chocolate lovers have a new reason to celebrate, and a team of experts has discovered that chocolate consumption can be healthy and even helps reduce blood pressure in just one month. It is important to consume the right chocolate.
A recent study by the Polytechnic Institute of Coimbra found that daily consumption of bitter chocolate reduces blood pressure even within a month. The results of the study were published in the English magazine "Nutrition".
Which chocolate is good for heart health?
Although even milk chocolate has its advantages, the study found that 90% of cocoa was the most potent. Cocoa-rich chocolate is rich in antioxidants and contains so-called flavonols. When people eat bitter chocolate every day, it improves the blood pressure of those affected. Benefits of chocolate consumption have been extensively studied, in particular possible effects on heart health. Flavonols have been associated with a number of health benefits, ranging from reduced insulin resistance to weight regulation and faster wound healing. Therefore, there is a great scientific interest in how the consumption of foods rich in flavanol affects our well-being.
How was the study structured?
To find out how chocolate affects the heart, the researchers looked at 30 healthy adult individuals aged 18 to 27 years. Over a period of 30 days, these individuals had to eat 20 grams of chocolate per day. Half of the participants consumed chocolate with 55% cocoa content. The remaining participants brought 90% cocoa chocolate to themselves.
Heart rate and arterial stiffness, as well as other values were measured 30 days before the experiment and two days later. Participants were told that they should not eat other foods rich in flavanol, such as red fruits, tea and wine, so as not to falsify the results. In all subjects, a significant improvement in blood pressure was observed. However, the effects were particularly strong in the group that consumed chocolate with a particularly high cocoa content.
How did bitter chocolate consumption work?
Systolic pressure measures the force that occurs when the heart is compressing the blood, while the diastolic pressure indicates the pressure when the heart rests between the 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 participants consumed high cocoa chocolate, systolic blood pressure fell 3.5 mmHg. On the other hand, in the group of people who ate low-cocoa chocolate, the systolic blood pressure fell by only 2.4 mmHg. Diastolic blood pressure was reduced by 2.3 mmHg or 1.7 mmHg consuming chocolate. The largest group of cocoa chocolate also had healthier pulse rates and improved so-called ventriculo-arterial coupling. This ventriculo-arterial coupling describes the interaction between the left ventricle and the arteries, which together pump blood throughout the body. It is believed that this increased interaction is due to a decrease in blood pressure and vascular relaxation.
Only young people participated in the study
The researchers note that the structure of the participants' hearts did not change. This may be due to the fact that the study lasted only 30 days. The inclusion of only healthy young people in the study could also have led to a reduction in detectable health effects.
It is one of the first studies on this topic conducted with young people. Similar studies typically examine middle-aged adults with health conditions.
Consumption of chocolate to maintain heart health
The findings of the present study are expected to help support chocolate consumption as a preventative measure for heart health. More research will now need to find out exactly how chocolate interacts with the rest of our diet to affect our well-being, the researchers said. In addition, it should also be investigated how exactly the cocoa protects the heart and what the ideal amount to consume. (THE)