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Dark chocolate flavonoids reduce high blood pressure

Wednesday, August 22, 2007 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
Tags: cacao, chocolate, health news

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(NewsTarget) Cocoa reduces high blood pressure but tea does not, according to a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Researchers from the University Hospital of Cologne in Germany compared the results of 10 different studies, five examining the effects of cocoa on blood pressure, and five examining the effects of tea. Both cocoa and tea are high in plant compounds called flavonoids, which prior studies have linked to reduced cholesterol levels and blood clotting risk.

In the five cocoa studies, conducted between 1966 and 2006, consumption of cocoa caused a lowering of blood pressure by an average of 4.7/2.8 mm Hg. In the five tea studies, no significant change was observed.

"This suggests that the different plant phenols must be differentiated with respect to their blood pressure-lowering potential and thus cardiovascular disease prevention," the researchers wrote.

Tea is higher in the type of flavonoid called flavan-3-ols, while cocoa is higher in procyanids. The researchers said that the level of blood-pressure reduction observed in the cocoa studies would be sufficient to reduce the risk of stroke by 20 percent, the risk of coronary heart disease by 10 percent and the overall risk of premature death by 8 percent.

But they warned that their results did not necessarily mean people should begin consuming large quantities of chocolate, dark or otherwise. For one thing, chocolate tends to be high in calories, and the negative effects of consuming a sugary, high-calorie food may outweigh any health benefits of the cocoa itself.

For another thing, the manner in which the studies were conducted was rather artificial and its results may not translate well into the real world.

"In the studies we reviewed, the blood pressure results occurred with cocoa doses above the habitual intake and were observed only in the setting of short-term interventions," said lead researcher Dirk Taubert. "It is not known whether long-term intake of small habitual amounts of cocoa ... may also cause significant blood pressure effects."

"Cacao is a healing superfood," exclaimed Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, in response to this study. "But its effects go far beyond merely balancing blood pressure. Raw cacao protects the liver, brain and heart. It stabilizes mood, helps detoxify the blood and in a very real way brightens your day." Adams emphasizes that only raw, unprocessed cacao offers the best benefits, and that consumers should avoid purchasing processed chocolate products made with refined sugar or milk fat.

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