Study shows chocolate helps lower blood pressure

by Eric Schroeder
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CHICAGO — New study findings from researchers in Germany suggests a little bit of dark chocolate may go a long way in helping to lower blood pressure. The findings appeared in the July 4 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association.

As part of the study, participants were randomly assigned to receive 6.3 grams of dark chocolate per day containing 30 mg of polyphenols or matching polyphenol-free white chocolate. At just over 6 grams, the amount equated to about 1 ½ Hershey’s Kisses per day for 18 weeks.

The small study involved 44 adults — 24 women and 20 men — ages 56 through 73 at a primary care clinic in Germany between January 2005 and December 2006. Participants were otherwise healthy and mostly normal-weight German adults with mild high blood pressure or pre-hypertension.

According to the researchers, average blood pressure at the start of the study was about 147 over 86. From baseline to 18 weeks, dark chocolate intake reduced systolic blood pressure (the top number) by an average of 2.9 points and diastolic blood pressure fell 1.9 points without any changes in body weight, plasma levels of lipids, glucose, and 8-isoprostane. Consumption of white chocolate caused no changes in blood pressure or plasma biomarkets, researchers noted.

Hypertension prevalence in the dark chocolate group dropped to 68% from 86%.

"Data in this relatively small sample of otherwise healthy individuals with above-optimal BP indicate that inclusion of small amounts of polyphenol-rich dark chocolate as part of a usual diet efficiently reduced BP and improved formation of vasodilative nitric oxide," the researchers concluded.

The study was funded by University Hospital in Cologne.

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