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Flavanol Found in Cocoa May Reduce Blood Pressure

You may have noticed that eating a piece of chocolate can sometimes make you feel better physically. Recent research suggests that might not be all in your head: chocolate contains the flavanol epicatechin, which has been linked to lower blood pressure.

The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Bonn in Germany and published online ahead of print on May 2, 2012, in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Four meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials were included in this study. The researchers found that higher doses of epicatechin resulted in the greatest reductions in systolic (top number in reading) and diastolic (bottom number) blood pressure. Particularly, they noted that 25 mg led to a 4.1 mm HG reduction in systolic and a 2.0 mm HG reduction in diastolic blood pressure.

A 2 mm HG reduction in diastolic blood pressure is associated with a 10% lower risk of stroke mortality and a 7% lower risk of ischemic heart disease mortality.

The researchers believe that epicatechin raises levels of nitric oxide, which has been known to help blood vessels relax and expand.

Chocolate isn’t just for heart health; it has also been shown to help brain health, improve insulin resistance, and reduce blood pressure. To get the health benefits of chocolate, focus on darker chocolates which contain more flavanols.

It’s important to keep in mind that excessive consumption of chocolate could negate the positive effects seen here and in other studies, as chocolate also has high fat, sugar, and calorie content. Your best bet is to eat small amounts of dark chocolate with high cocoa content.

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