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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Dark Chocolate, for your health

Effects of Cocoa Intake on Blood Pressure

Preliminary evidence suggested that regular consumption of polyphenols in cocoa (equivalent to ≥100 g of chocolate per day) was associated with lower blood pressure (BP). Given concerns about the high sugar, fat, and calorie intake from cocoa consumption of this magnitude, the effects of low doses of cocoa would be of interest. Taubert and colleagues report results of a clinical trial in which 44 older adults who had untreated prehypertension or stage 1 hypertension were randomly assigned to either 6.3 g (28.9 kcal) per day of dark chocolate containing 30 mg of polyphenols or a matching amount of polyphenol-free white chocolate. At the 18th week of follow-up, the authors found that participants consuming dark chocolate had experienced reductions from baseline in mean (SD) systolic and diastolic BP of 2.9 (1.6) mm Hg and 1.9 (1.0) mm Hg, respectively, without changes in body weight or other adverse effects. Persons who were consuming white chocolate experienced no change in BP.

Results From baseline to 18 weeks, dark chocolate intake reduced mean (SD) systolic BP by –2.9 (1.6) mm Hg (P < .001) and diastolic BP by –1.9 (1.0) mm Hg (P < .001) without changes in body weight, plasma levels of lipids, glucose, and 8-isoprostane. Hypertension prevalence declined from 86% to 68%. The BP decrease was accompanied by a sustained increase of S-nitrosoglutathione by 0.23 (0.12) nmol/L (P < .001), and a dark chocolate dose resulted in the appearance of cocoa phenols in plasma. White chocolate intake caused no changes in BP or plasma biomarkers.

Conclusions Data in this relatively small sample of otherwise healthy individuals with above-optimal BP indicate that inclusion of small amounts of polyphenol-rich dark chocolate as part of a usual diet efficiently reduced BP and improved formation of vasodilative nitric oxide.

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