We Americans enjoy it. The French have been doing it for longer. And we’re pretty sure the Germans and the Swiss are in on it too. In many countries around the world, rich, creamy, chocolately cocoa is imbibed at breakfast, lunch and after dinner. It’s sweet, soothing, and some many even argue, quite nutritious. And now it’s been discovered that Cocoa Flavanols (an antioxidant-like compound naturally found in cocoa beans), can lower blood pressure and contribute to better cardiovascular health.
In a randomized, double-blind, crossover design study involving 21 subjects (8 females, 13 males, 54.9 years of age, BMI: 31.6 kg/m(2), systolic BP: 134 mm Hg, diastolic BP: 87 mm Hg), consumption of a high-flavanol cocoa beverage (701 mg) was found to significantly attenuate the blood pressure response to exercise (10 minutes of cycling at 75% of age-predicted maximum heart rate) – blood pressure increases were 68% lower for diastolic BP and 14% lower for mean blood pressure. Subjects were given a single serving of either a high-flavanol (701 mg) or low flavanol (22 mg) cocoa beverage. After 2 hours, measurements of FMD and BP were taken before and during 10 minutes of exercise. BP was similar between the 2 groups prior to exericse. After exercise, BP increases were significantly reduced in the high-flavanol group. In addition, FMD was higher among subjects who took the high-flavanol versus the low-flavanol beverage. The authors conclude, “By facilitating vasodilation and attenuating exercise-induced increases in BP, cocoa flavanols may decrease cardiovascular risk and enhance the cardiovascular benefits of moderate intensity exercise in at-risk individuals.”
So no matter if you’re a mountain climber, a skier, or just sitting by the fire in your living room. Heat up a rich cup of cocoa for better cardiovascular health. And don’t forget the marshmallows!