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New Evidence Links Cocoa to Blood Pressure Benefit

Researchers from the University of South Australia recently completed a study that strengthens the link between cocoa consumption and reductions in blood pressure. Their findings were published in the January 2010 issue of the Journal of Human Hypertension.

For the study, the researchers recruited 32 men and 20 postmenopausal women with untreated mild hypertension (blood pressure between 130/85 and 160/100 mmHg.)

The participants were randomly assigned to one of four groups. Each group received a cocoa beverage containing different doses of flavanols, ranging from 33-1052 mg of flavanols per day for 6 weeks.

At the end of the 6 weeks, only the highest dose of 1052 mg of flavanols was associated with a significant reduction in blood pressure. That group saw a decrease of 5.3 mmHg for systolic blood pressure and 3 mmHg for diastolic blood pressure.

Scientists have long believed that the anti-hypertensive benefits of cocoa are due to the naturally occurring antioxidants found in cocoa called flavonols, and this study further confirms their belief.

These powerful antioxidants have been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, decrease inflammation and improve brain health by increasing blood flow.

Different kinds of chocolate contain varying amounts of cocoa, and therefore varying amounts of flavonols as well. Dark chocolate contains the highest amount of cocoa, but be careful because as we all know, it is very easy to eat a little too much chocolate. Due to the high saturated fat content of chocolate, eating much more than 1-2 servings daily (20-40g) can easily cancel out any of the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.

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