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Sunday, July 11, 2010

More dark chocolate benefits

It seems like I'm running an ad for dark chocolate, but there just seems to be a lot of good news lately from studies of it. Perhaps there's an evolutionary survival reason why we humans seem to love the stuff..."Flavanol-rich" cocoa products (otherwise known as dark chocolate) may help to reduce blood pressure a little bit in people with high blood pressure, according to the results of a meta-analysis (a study that puts together the results of other studies rather than collecting new date) by a team led by Karin Ried from the University of Adelaide in Australia and reported in the June 28 issue of BMC Medicine.

Interestingly the chocolate did not reduce blood pressure in people with normal blood pressure, only those with high blood pressure.

The size of the effect in people with high blood pressure was about 5 and 3 mmHg (millimeters of mercury) for diastolic and systolic blood pressure respectively. MmHg are the usual units in which blood pressure is measured. Controlling both systolic and diastolic blood pressure is important for prevention of heart disease and stroke. Reducing blood pressure by 5 mm Hg is a clinically important effect which lowers the risk of heart attack and stroke measurably.

Again one must be cautious about these results because if one ingested the chocolate with a lot of extra sugar, such as in a hot chocolate or cocoa drink, its effects might be counteracted by the increased calories.

Also in interviews reported by Medscape, the authors were careful to caution that flavanol-rich chocolate did not significantly reduce mean blood pressure below 140 mmHg systolic or 80 mmHg diastolic.

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