Cocoa products show consistent blood pressure benefits: Study

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Blood pressure

Cocoa products show consistent blood pressure benefits: Study
Daily consumption of flavanol-rich cocoa products consistently show blood pressure benefits, according to a new analysis of four meta-analyses.

A daily intake of 25 mg of epicatechin was associated with average reductions in systolic and diastolic blood pressure of 4.1 and 2.0 mmHg, respectively, according to findings published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition​.

“To achieve a reduction in blood pressure, large amounts of chocolate or cocoa beverages, which are rich in energy and may thus favor obesity, a well-known risk factor for hypertension and for CVD [cardiovascular disease], are not necessary,” ​wrote the researchers, led by Sabine Ellinger from the University of Bonn in Germany.

“Even if the blood pressure-reducing effect by epicatechin ingestion is restricted to prehypertensive and hypertensive subjects, we have to be aware that these are the primary groups who may benefit from this measure for prevention of and therapy for hypertension.”

Cocoa’s benefits

The health benefits of polyphenols from cocoa have been gathering increasing column inches in the national media. To date studies have reported potential benefits for cardiovascular health, skin health, and even brain health.

The majority of science into the potential benefits of cocoa have revolved around cardiovascular benefits of the flavanols (also known as flavan-3-ols or catechins), and particularly the monomeric flavanol (-)epicatechin.

Recently, however, scientists from the University of Reading in England and Mars reported that cocoa may also affect gut microflora and possess prebiotic potential.

New data

For the new analysis, the Germany-based scientists investigated the effects of epicatechin dose on blood pressure measures using data from four meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials.

Results showed that the potential blood pressure lowering effects of epicatechin were linked to the dose consumed with higher doses producing greater reductions in blood pressure. A 25 mg dose of epicatechin per day was associated with significant reductions in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

Commenting on the potential mechanism, the researchers note that epicatechin consumption has been linked to an increase in levels of nitric oxide – a potent vasodilator, or compound that helps the blood vessels relax and expand.

“A reduction in SBP of 2 mmHg was associated with a 10% lower stroke mortality and a 7% lower mortality from ischemic heart disease and other vascular diseases in middle-age subjects,” ​wrote the researchers.

“It may be hypothesized that a mean reduction in SBP of 4.1 mmHg through intake of 25 mg epicatechin after cocoa consumption.”

(Figure 3) will further decrease mortality rates.Source: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Published online ahead of print, doi:10.3945/ajcn.111.029330
“Epicatechin ingested via cocoa products reduces blood pressure in humans: a nonlinear regression model with a Bayesian approach”
Authors:  S. Ellinger, A. Reusch, P. Stehle, H-P. Helfrich

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