Cocoa May Cut Blood Pressure
Study Tracked Eating Habits of Elderly Men
WebMD News Archive
Key Finding continued...
"Although there have been a few small intervention studies published,
the amount of chocolate in these studies was huge -- in most cases 100 grams
per day -- and the follow-up duration was quite short (a few weeks),"
"These studies have clearly shown that cocoa lowers blood pressure and
improves endothelial function. Now it is time to study whether there is a
'threshold' in the dose of chocolate. So, intervention studies that use lower
amounts of dark chocolate or cocoa drink with duration longer than a few weeks
are interesting," he continues. Endothelial function is the working of
blood vessels' inner lining.
Stripped of Helpful Compounds?
"Of course, we need to test whether the cocoa flavanols are
responsible," Buijsse says "A recently published study indeed indicates
that they are. This needs to be confirmed."
His study tracked cocoa, not flavanols. That may be a weakness in the study,
says Norman Hollenberg, MD, PhD, who recently published a .
Hollenberg's study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of
Sciences, was funded by the candy company Mars Inc., which is developing
flavanol-rich cocoa products.
Cocoa is usually processed to remove bitterness. "Unfortunately, the
bitterness is the flavanoids," Hollenberg tells WebMD. Flavanols are a type
"I am aware that during the production process of chocolate (especially
alkalization and roasting of the cocoa beans), a part of the flavanols is
broken down," Buijsse says. "This may be true to some extent, but
commercially available cocoa foods still contain flavanols," he says.
"Although the flavanol content of commercially available cocoa foods is
lower than that used in certain intervention studies, our results suggest that
these foods may still exert an effect on cardiovascular health," Buijsse
Even so, there's good reason not to go overboard with cocoa and
"Chocolate contains loads of calories because of the sugar and fat in
it," Buijsse writes. "If people eat a lot of chocolate, they inevitably
gain weight. And having a high body weight is a major risk factor for high
blood pressure and CVD."