Saturday, July 7, 2007

Decrease Your blood pressure with Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate can reduce blood pressure but over-indulgence in it can cause harm, suggests a new study by researchers in Germany. Chocolates are made from cocoa - the dried and partially fermented fatty seed of the cacao tree.

Cocoa contains flavonoid, a type of chemical that researchers say has been shown to improve blood flow and reduce blood pressure.

Researchers at the University Hospital of Cologne studied 44 people with raised blood pressure, putting them into two groups. One ate six grams of dark chocolate daily, the other the same amount of white chocolate.

The people were between 56 to 73 years with either upper-range pre hypertension (blood pressure between 130/85 and 139/89) or stage 1 hypertension (blood pressure between 140/90 and 160/100).

None of those eating dark chocolate registered changes in body weight or their levels of glucose and lipids, the researchers wrote in the Journal of American Medicine (JAMA).

Their systolic blood pressure - the upper reading which measures the force of blood as the heart beats - fell by 2.9 mm and their diastolic blood pressure - the lower figure taken as the heart relaxes - reduced by 1.9 mm.

The suggestion that cocoa is beneficial for health is not new and previous research had also suggested it could bring down blood pressure.

However, it had been thought that large quantities were needed to achieve the desired effect and that the benefits would then be offset by the consequences of consuming the high levels of fat and sugar associated with cocoa products.

But the researchers said they have now shown that benefits can be achieved with a small amount - 30 calories worth of chocolate.

They noted that the blood pressure reduction was small but stressed that the effects were clinically noteworthy.

A 3 mm reduction in blood pressure could "reduce the relative risk of stroke mortality by 8 percent, of coronary artery disease by 5 percent, and of all cause mortality by 4 percent," the researchers said.

They also stressed that asking people to consume a couple of chunks of chocolate a day was far easier than encouraging "complex behavioural changes" to help them reduce their blood pressure.

However, the British Heart Foundation's nutritionist Sara Stanner warned that it was "important to remember that chocolate is also high in fat and calories so over-indulgence is not good for your heart."

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