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Cocoa-Derived Flavanols May Help Lower Blood Pressure

High blood pressure can cause serious damage to arteries, the heart, and other organs, however blood pressure-lowering medications often have adverse side effects. A recent study suggests that the flavanols found in cocoa may help lower blood pressure in healthy adults without side effects.

Participants in the study included 100 healthy adults between the ages of 35 and 60 who were given either a drink containing 450 mg of cocoa-derived flavanols or a flavanol-free control drink twice a day over the course of a month. All of the participants had BMIs in the normal range and no signs of cardiovascular disease. The researchers measured their blood pressure, cholesterol, and vital signs at the onset, one-month mark, and conclusion of the study.

At the one-month point, the flavanol group had a decrease in systolic blood pressure of 4.4 mmHg and a decrease in diastolic blood pressure of 3.9 mmHg. The researchers said this drop was similar to those seen in other studies examining the effects of cocoa flavanols, and is close to the effects seen with common blood pressure medications.

Additionally, the researchers noted improved Framingham Risk Scores, which examine the 10-year cardiovascular risk of a person. However, they did note that the short study period meant that more research would need to be conducted to confirm the results.

Researchers from the University of Dusseldorf, University of Reading, and Mars conducted the study. It was published online ahead of print on September 9, 2015, in the British Journal of Nutrition.

Flavonols are the naturally occurring antioxidants found in cocoa which have previously been shown to decrease inflammation, protect DNA from damage and improve heart and brain health by increasing blood flow. The researchers in this study noted that chocolate will not provide the same health effects, as many of the nutrients of cocoa are destroyed in the roasting and refining process.

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