Flavanol-Rich Cacao Lowers Blood Pressure

Hypertension is a type of cardiovascular disease characterized by elevation of blood pressure above the level considered normal for people of similar racial and environmental backgrounds. When blood pressure is taken on two or more subsequent days and reads 140/90 or above this is considered to be high blood pressure. Because it affects the entire circulatory system, hypertension can be detrimental to all the major organs, including the heart, brain, and kidneys. It may contribute to death from heart failure, heart attacks, stroke, and even kidney failure. One in five Americans (and one in three adults) has high blood pressure.
Cocoa beans grow on the Theobroma cacao tree, which is found in Southeast Asia, Hawaii, Brazil and other South American countries. Cocoa beans are harvested, dried and roasted and then crushed into chocolate liquor. This liquor is then pressed to remove most of the cocoa butter and the remainder is further processed to become unsweetened cocoa powder. Cocoa contains fat, carbohydrates, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and other compounds. Cocoa phenols have been found to prevent LDL (bad) cholesterol from plague buildup in the arteries, thereby, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. Theobromine is the primary alkaloid found in cocoa and chocolate. Cocoa powder can vary in the amount of theobromine, from 2% theobromine to at least 10%. Flavonols are a subclass of flavonoids.  Flavonoids are dietary compounds found in tea, wine, cocoa, fruit and vegetables.  They contribute significantly to color, taste and possibly offer health benefits.
A study published in the journal, Hypertension, scientists tested whether flavanol-rich cocoa drinks with natural or added theobromine could reduce blood pressure. The double-blind, placebo-controlled trial involved 42 healthy individuals with blood pressure of 130 to 159 mm Hg/85 to 99 mm Hg and possible cardiovascular risk. They were randomly assigned to a sequence of dairy drinks containing placebo, flavanol-rich cocoa with a natural dose of 106 mg of theobromine, or flavanol-rich cocoa with 979 mg of theobromine. After the 3 week treatment period with a 2 week washout, theobromine-enriched cocoa significantly increased 24-hour ambulatory systolic blood pressure while lowering central systolic blood pressure in comparison to either the placebo or the natural dose theobromine cocoa. These findings indicate that theobromine-enriched cocoa may be effective in lowering blood pressure.1

1 Van den Bogaard B, Draijer R, Westerhof BE, et al. Effects on peripheral and central blood pressure of cocoa with natural or high-dose theobromine: a randomized, double-blind crossover trial. Hypertension. Nov2010;56(5):839-46.

Article courtesy of NHIonDemand.com.

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