Cocoa and chocolate are derived from the cacao bean (Theobroma cacao). Cocoa products have recently been recognized as a significant source of a number of compounds, such as flavonoids, that may have valuable health benefits. For this reason, and because it is so popular, chocolate is the focus of intense research.
In a recent study, researchers conducted a comprehensive literature search for well-designed clinical trials evaluating the effects of cocoa or chocolate products on blood pressure for at least two weeks. Twenty studies involving 856 participants were ultimately identified for inclusion.
The researchers found that consumption of flavanol-rich cocoa and chocolate products, 3.6-105 grams daily, significantly reduced blood pressure in healthy participants when compared to a control group. However, the authors noted that the significant blood pressure lowering effects were seen in short-term studies of two weeks, but not in longer studies. Additionally, some studies used flavanol-free control treatments, while some used low-flavanol cocoa powder.
The authors concluded that although flavanol-rich cocoa products may reduce blood pressure in the short-term, differences in flavanol content, study duration and blinding may have affected the data analysis. Larger-scale, well-designed clinical trials are needed before any firm conclusions can be made.
In addition to chocolate, numerous human studies report that garlic may lower blood pressure, and that small reductions in blood pressure may be seen with the intake of omega-3 fatty acids.
For more information about integrative therapies that may reduce blood pressure, please visit Natural Standard's Comparative Effectiveness Database.
For more information about chocolate, please visit Natural Standard's Foods, Herbs & Supplements Database.