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Eating dark chocolate could reduce your blood pressure, study finds

Study investigates the potential of dark chocolate in lowering the risk of essential hypertension, shedding light on its promising health benefits.
Study investigates the potential of dark chocolate in lowering the risk of essential hypertension, shedding light on its promising health benefits. (CREDIT: Creative Commons)

High blood pressure, or hypertension, poses significant risks to cardiovascular health. While lifestyle changes and medications are commonly used to manage it, researchers are continually seeking novel approaches to prevention.


A recent study published in Nature Scientific Reports investigates the potential of dark chocolate in lowering the risk of essential hypertension, shedding light on its promising health benefits.


 
 

Essential hypertension, characterized by elevated blood pressure without an apparent cause, is a prevalent condition globally. Dr. Rigved Tadwalkar, Dr. Rigved Tadwalkar, a board certified cardiologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, CA, underscores its significance, stating, "Essential hypertension stands out as the predominant contributor to cardiovascular diseases."


Lifestyle modifications, including diet, play a crucial role in hypertension prevention, prompting researchers to explore the potential of specific foods.


Dark chocolate, containing high cocoa solids, emerges as a subject of interest due to its rich flavanols content. Karen Z. Berg, a registered dietitian nutritionist, explains, "Cocoa is rich in flavanols, so the higher the percentage of cocoa in your chocolate, the more health benefits are possible." These benefits include improved cardiovascular health attributed to properties such as fiber, iron, and magnesium. However, the study refrains from establishing a causal relationship between dark chocolate intake and decreased blood clot risk.


 
 

Using a technique called Mendelian randomization, researchers analyzed data from genome-wide association studies to investigate the association between dark chocolate intake and various cardiovascular diseases.


The results are promising, suggesting a potential causal relationship between dark chocolate consumption and a reduced risk of essential hypertension. Additionally, a link between dark chocolate intake and decreased risk of venous thromboembolism, a type of blood clot, was observed.


 

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Dr. Tadwalkar acknowledges the study's potential implications, envisioning future dietary recommendations and even the development of dark chocolate-derived therapies for hypertension prevention.


However, the study's limitations, including small sample size and data restrictions, temper the extent of its clinical application.


 
 

Dr. Cheng-Han Chen, a board certified interventional cardiologist and medical director of the Structural Heart Program at MemorialCare Saddleback Medical Center, emphasizes the need for caution, stating, "I wouldn’t discourage dark chocolate intake based on this study, but I also wouldn’t recommend increasing dark chocolate intake based on this study alone."


Despite its promising findings, the study faces challenges and limitations. Data limitations, sample overlap, and potential biases underscore the need for further research to elucidate the precise mechanisms underlying dark chocolate's cardiovascular benefits. Future investigations may explore its impact on additional cardiovascular endpoints, such as atherosclerosis and cardiac function.


The study highlights the potential of dark chocolate as a dietary intervention for hypertension prevention. While further research is warranted to validate these findings and address existing limitations, it offers exciting possibilities for improving cardiovascular health through dietary modifications.


 
 

Other health benefits studied for the consumption of dark chocolate


Dark chocolate, particularly when consumed in moderation, has been associated with several scientifically studied health benefits. Some of these benefits include:


Cardiovascular Health: Dark chocolate contains flavonoids, particularly flavonols, which have been linked to improved heart health by reducing inflammation and improving blood flow. A study published in the Journal of Scientific Reports found that regular consumption of dark chocolate was associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease mortality.


Blood Pressure Regulation: Flavanols found in dark chocolate may help regulate blood pressure. A meta-analysis published in Science Direct concluded that flavanol-rich cocoa products, such as dark chocolate, can significantly reduce blood pressure.


 
 

Improved Cholesterol Levels: Another meta-analysis, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that consumption of cocoa products, including dark chocolate, was associated with reductions in LDL cholesterol levels.


Brain Function: Flavanols in dark chocolate have been shown to improve cognitive function and may protect against neurodegenerative diseases. A study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that regular consumption of cocoa flavanols was associated with improvements in cognitive function, particularly in older adults.


Antioxidant Properties: Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants, which help combat oxidative stress and reduce the risk of chronic diseases. A study published in the National Library of Medicine demonstrated the high antioxidant activity of cocoa and its potential health benefits.


 
 

These studies highlight the potential health benefits of consuming dark chocolate as part of a balanced diet. However, it's important to note that moderation is key, as excessive consumption can lead to weight gain and other health issues.






For more science news stories check out our New Innovations section at The Brighter Side of News.


 

Note: Materials provided by Rutgers University. Content may be edited for style and length.


 
 

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