Cocoa no help for arterial stiffness: Study

By Barbara Diggs

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Atherosclerosis

Despite being related to a lower cardiovascular risk, cocoa intake does not necessarily improve arterial stiffness in subjects with cardiovascular risk factors, say researchers.

The study, published in Nutrition Journal​, investigated the relationship between cocoa consumption and arterial stiffness in individuals with cardiovascular risk factors.

Led by José Ignacio Recio-Rodriguez, researchers from the La Alemdilla Health Center’s Primary Care Research Unit and University of Salamanca in Spain reported that their findings did not indicate cocoa intake had any influence on arterial stiffness values.

Cocoa and cardiovascular health

Numerous clinical studies have indicated that consuming cocoa can benefit the cardiovascular system, particularly in lowering blood pressure and improving the function of the cells lining the blood vessel. The benefit is believed to be principally derived from flavonoids, a group of antioxidant compounds also found in cocoa and some fruits and vegetables.

“However, the relationship of usual cocoa consumption to arterial stiffness parameters and central blood pressure is not clear, although intake has been linked to a lower prevalence of atherosclerotic plaques in carotid arteries.The relationship…has only been studied in healthy individuals without cardiovascular risk factors,”​ Recio-Rodriguez and his colleagues wrote.

“The purpose of this study is to analyse the relationship of coco intake to central and peripheral blood pressure, arterial stiffness, and carotid intima-media thickness in subjects with some cardiovascular risk.”

Study details

The team examined 351 participants with a mean age of 54.7 years in a primary care setting. From each subject they collected data regarding the subject’s frequency of cocoa intake and other foods using a food frequency questionnaire.

The researchers measured the subjects’ office and ambulatory blood pressure, central and peripheral blood pressure, pulse wave velocity, and used carotid ultrasonography to assess intima-media thickness. All participants had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease, such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity, or smoking.

The results showed that pulse wave velocity (the measure of arterial stiffness) was higher and cardiovascular risk was greater among non-cocoa consumers than high cocoa consumers. Nevertheless, after adjusting for age, gender, diabetes, systolic blood pressure and lipid-lowering drug us, these differences vanished. The other arterial stiffness measures did not reflect a difference between the consumption groups.

“There are several possible explanations for these results. In our study, the three groups of cocoa intake are very heterogeneous with differences in age, gender and the proportion of subjects with antihypertensive and lipid-lowering drugs. This fact may influence the results,”​ researchers wrote.


Nutrition Journal

2012, 11:8 DOI: 10.1186/1475-2891-11-8

'Cocoa intake and arterial stiffness in subjects with cardiovascular risk factors'

Authors: José I. Recio-Rodriguez, Manuel A. Gómez-Marcos, Maria C Patino-Alonso, Cristina Agudo-Conde, Emiliano Rodriguez-Sanchez, Luis Garia-Ortiz, and Vaso-Risk Group

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