Cocoa could help lower blood pressure, artery stiffness

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In a study from the University of Surrey, scientists found cocoa only reduces blood pressure and arterial stiffness when they are elevated.

High blood pressure and arterial stiffness increase a person’s risk of heart disease and strokes, so it is crucial that we investigate innovative ways to treat such conditions.

Cocoa flavanols have previously been found to lower blood pressure and arterial stiffness as much as some blood pressure medication.

However, how effective flavanols are in everyday life in reducing blood pressure has remained unknown.

In the study, the team reduced concerns that cocoa as a treatment for raised blood pressure could pose health risks by decreasing blood pressure when it is not raised, paving the way for it to be potentially used in clinical practice.

They set out to test the use of flavanols, a compound found in cocoa, in lowering blood pressure and arterial stiffness in people outside of clinical settings.

For several days, eleven healthy participants consumed, on alternating days, either six cocoa flavanol capsules or six placebo capsules containing brown sugar.

Participants were provided with an upper arm blood pressure monitor and a finger clip measuring pulse wave velocity (PWV) which gauges levels of arterial stiffness.

Measurements of blood pressure and PWV were taken prior to consumption of the capsules and every 30 minutes after ingestion for the first three hours, and then hourly for the remaining nine hours.

The researchers found that blood pressure and arterial stiffness were only lowered in participants if it was high, and there was no effect when the blood pressure was low in the morning.

The effects were also found eight hours after cocoa was consumed. The team believes that this second peak may be due to how bacteria in the gut metabolize cocoa flavanols.

The team says the positive impact cocoa flavanols have on our cardiovascular system, in particular, blood vessel function and blood pressure, is undeniable.

Doctors often fear that some blood pressure tablets can decrease blood pressure too much on some days.

If you care about blood pressure, please read studies about a major cause of high blood pressure, and drinking coffee could help control blood pressure.

For more information about blood pressure, please see recent studies that black tea may strongly reduce blood pressure, and results showing  3 grams of omega-3s a day keep high blood pressure at bay.

The study was conducted by Christian Heiss et al and published in Frontiers in Nutrition.

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