A recent real-world study published in Frontiers in Nutrition has confirmed that cocoa flavanols can reduce blood pressure and arterial stiffness, but only in people who already have elevated levels.
Cocoa flavanols have been previously shown to decrease blood pressure and arterial stiffness, but the effect has only been observed in a laboratory setting. This was the first study to investigate the effect outside of a clinical setting. Eleven healthy young people were included in the study. They each took six pills containing either cocoa flavanols or placebo every other day for eight consecutive days while otherwise living their everyday lives. Their blood pressure levels and levels of arterial stiffness were regularly checked throughout the study.
The researchers found that the participants’ blood pressure and arterial stiffness were lowered when they took cocoa flavanols, but only if that participant’s levels had been high at their baseline measurement. Additionally, the researchers saw that there were large variations in responses both between individuals and in the same individuals on different days, implying that personalized strategies may be important when using cocoa flavanols for medical interventions.
Flavanols are a type of nutrient found in many plant foods, including blueberries, apples, tea, and more. Cacao beans, which are used to make cocoa powder, are especially rich in flavanols. In addition to their effects on blood pressure and arterial stiffness, previous studies have shown that cocoa flavanols improve attention, memory, and executive function when regularly taken by older adults. Chocolate contains cocoa flavanols, but the amount will vary depending on the type of chocolate and the manufacturing method, with dark chocolate general containing more than milk chocolate. For the optimal dose of cocoa flavanols, it is best to use natural cocoa powder that has not been overly processed.