Sweet! A Little Chocolate a Day May Help Lower Blood Pressure
Need an excuse to treat yourself to dessert? A daily dose of chocolate or cocoa powder could help lower blood pressure, say the authors of a new systematic review by the Cochrane Library.
The review of 20 previous studies found that people who were given dark chocolate or cocoa powder daily showed a slight drop in blood pressure, compared with control groups. The studies were all short term — mostly lasting two to eight weeks — so it’s not clear how long the blood pressure benefits would last, but the “small reduction we saw over the short term might complement other treatment options and might contribute to reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease,” said lead researcher Dr. Karin Ried of the National Institute of Integrative Medicine in Melbourne, Australia, in a statement.
How does chocolate do its trick? It’s packed with compounds called flavanols — compounds like epicatechin, catechin and procyanidins, which are extracted from cacao beans and are thought to be responsible for the formation of nitric acid in the body. Nitric acid, in turn, serves to relax blood vessel walls and lower pressure.
High blood pressure is a key risk factor for heart disease, contributing to 47% of heart attacks and 54% of strokes worldwide, the authors write. They note that the risk of
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