Posted on Sep 21, 2012, 6 a.m.
Flavonols present in dark chocolate and cocoa can lower blood pressure and could complement other treatment options for hypertension.
A recent Cochrane review has confirmed that eating dark chocolate or cocoa can help to lower blood pressure. The analysis of 20 randomized controlled or crossover trials included in the review revealed that consumption of flavonol-rich cocoa products led to an average 8/2.2 mm Hg drop in blood pressure. "Even small reductions in blood pressure substantially reduce cardiovascular risk," wrote Karin Ried, PhD, and colleagues at the University of Adelaide, Australia. The researchers also went on to suggest that cocoa "might complement other treatment options". However, they also stressed that long-term studies are needed to determine whether or not blood pressure is reduced on a chronic basis by daily ingestion of cocoa, and to determine any impact on clinical outcomes or chronic adverse effects. Reacting to the review, Carol Horowitz, MD, MPH, of Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, wrote: "I would tell [patients] to enjoy small amounts of chocolate if it's a food they like, but that too much of it can lead to weight gain, which can increase blood pressure and introduce a host of other health problems." Experts recommend consuming no more than an ounce of dark chocolate each day, but add that cocoa powder is preferable as it contains more flavonols and fewer calories.
Ried K, Sullivan TR, Fakler P, Frank OR, Stocks NP. Effect of cocoa on blood pressure. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012 Aug 15;8:CD008893.