Food & Beverage Perspectives
chocolate_heart health

Cocoa Flavanols Do Wonders for the Heart: Cholesterol, Blood Pressure

In healthy individuals, regular C cocoa flavanols intake improved accredited cardiovascular surrogates of cardiovascular risk, demonstrating that dietary flavanols have the potential to maintain cardiovascular health even in low-risk subjects.

Since its discovery, chocolate has been a decadent and indulgent treat. What’s lovely about chocolate, however, is that it’s good for here. Over the past several months, I’ve blogged on recent studies pertaining to its portfolio of health benefits—from its ability to boost energy and attentiveness to reducing cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk and accelerating weight loss.   

In more recent news, the effects of cocoa flavanols—know to improve endothelial function—on surrogate markers of cardiovascular health were investigated in a one-month, open-label, one-armed pilot study (Br J Nutr. 2015;9:1-10). In this study, low-risk, healthy, middle-aged individuals without history, signs or symptoms of CVD who ate 450 mg of cocoa flavanols twice a day experienced a time-dependent increase in endothelial function—measured as flow-mediated vasodilation (FMD)—that plateaued after two weeks.

Subsequently, in a randomized, controlled, double-masked, parallel-group dietary intervention trial, 100 healthy, middle-aged (35 to 60 years) men and women consumed either the cocoa-flavanol-containing drink (450 mg) or a nutrient-matched cocoa-flavanol-free control twice a day for one month. At one month, cocoa flavanol increased FMD over control by 1.2 percent. Cocoa flavanols decreased systolic and diastolic blood pressure by 4.4 mmHg and 3.9 mmHg, pulse wave velocity by 0.4 m/s, total cholesterol by 0.20 mmol/l and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol by 0.17 mmol/l, whereas high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol increased by 0.10 mmol/l. By applying the Framingham Risk Score, cocoa flavanols predicted a significant lowering of 10-year risk for CHD, myocardial infarction, CVD, death from CHD and CVD.

The researchers concluded: “In healthy individuals, regular C cocoa flavanols intake improved accredited cardiovascular surrogates of cardiovascular risk, demonstrating that dietary flavanols have the potential to maintain cardiovascular health even in low-risk subjects."

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