The ‘old’ chocolate debate

05 Jul

One of my personal interests is blood pressure, especially high blood pressure. It stalks my families genetic profile and allows my father to claim that he really did give me something. Thanks Dad. Hypertension….MF.

Apparently, dark chocolate may have some effect on reducing high blood pressure.  For the hormonally challenged, emotional vulnerable members of Crossfit London…hurrah!

But the Blood Pressure Association is not advising people with high blood pressure to rush out to buy giant bars of dark chocolate just yet….on behalf of the hormonally challenged, emotional vulnerable members of Crossfit London…boooo!

Some studies, have shown chocoalte good, others bad. So, researchers from the University of Adelaide, Australia (who knew they had a university!!) , led by Dr Karin Ried, combined the results of 15 studies which had been conducted into the effects of flavanols, (compounds in chocolate which cause dilation of blood vessels), on blood pressure.

The amount of chocolate consumed in the studies varied from just one chunk (6g) to a whole bar (100g) a day. The results were published in the journal BMC Medicine. Obviously a study not short of volunteers.

What they found

The researchers found that pressure reduction seen in the combined results for people with hypertension was up to 5mm Hg systolic (top number). In theory, this is a similar reduction to the known effects of 30 daily minutes of physical activity (4-9mm Hg). However, the researchers are cautious as to whether dark chocolate has long term benefits for people with high blood pressure and say more research is needed.

Dr Ried said: “We’ve found that consumption can modestly reduce blood pressure for people with high blood pressure but not for people with normal blood pressure”.

However, she added: “The practicability of chocolate or cocoa drinks as long-term treatment is questionable. Additional trials of hypertensive populations are needed to elucidate whether local dietary habits or genetic factors influence the blood pressure-lowering effect of cocoa.”

What does the Blood Pressure Association think?

Mike Rich, Executive Director of UK charity the Blood Pressure Association, said: “This is interesting research, which seems to indicate that eating dark chocolate can have a moderate blood pressure lowering-effect on those who already have high blood pressure. But more research is needed to see if this is anything more than a short-term effect.

“Of course, there’s nothing wrong with the occasional sweet treat, but eating too much chocolate may cause weight gain, which in turn raises blood pressure, so we wouldn’t recommend that people rush out to get giant bars of dark chocolate just yet.

“If you want to make changes to your diet to help your blood pressure and your waistline, it’s best to cut down on salt and increase the amount of fruit and veg you eat. It’s proven that these dietary changes not only lower the blood pressure of people who are already hypertensive, but can help to prevent others developing high blood pressure in the first place.”

To see the full research paper click here.

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