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Cocoa is Good for the Heart

Do you enjoy sipping hot cocoa when the weather turns cold? Then you'll be pleased to know that a meta-analysis from the Harvard School of Public Health has found that cocoa has notable heart health benefits.

The findings will be published in the Journal of Nutrition on November 1, 2011.

The researchers examined 24 randomized, controlled trials which included 1106 participants. They discovered that cocoa consumption was associated with an average 1.6 mmHg decrease in systolic blood pressure. Systolic blood pressure is the top number in a blood pressure reading and represents the amount of pressure occurring when the heart is beating.

They also noted significant increases in “good” (HDL) cholesterol and reductions in “bad” (LDL) cholesterol, decreases in measures of insulin resistance, and a 1.5% increase in flow-mediated dilation (FMD), which is a measure of how well a blood vessel relaxes after contracting.

The researchers believe that these benefits are due to the high flavonoid levels of cocoa.

Once thought to be the cause of a large number of health problems, cocoa has recently been linked with numerous health benefits, including improving skin health and brain health. It is important to note that not all chocolate is created equal: chocolates with a higher percentage of cocoa tend to be much healthier. This is because darker chocolate has higher levels of flavonoids.

Flavonoids are the naturally occurring antioxidants found in cocoa which have previously been shown to decrease inflammation, protect our DNA from damage, and improve heart and brain health by increasing blood flow. It is important not to overindulge when it comes to cocoa because the high saturated fat content can easily outweigh any antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.

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