For people with a sweet tooth, researchers are giving one more reason to add a few ounces of dark chocolate to their diet each week. Over the past few months, dark chocolate has been touted as a healthy food choice for many different health conditions and the most recent is the study that found eating this sweet delight can help lower blood pressure.
Dark Chocolate Lowers High Blood Pressure
Researchers reported in the June 28, 2010 issue of the online journal BMC Medicine that eating dark chocolate can lower blood pressure. The researchers from the University of Adelaide, Australia found that the powerful antioxidants, flavanols, which are a compound in dark chocolate, can actually help to dilate blood vessels which can lead to lowering blood pressure, find out more. They reported a reduction of up to 5mm HG in systolic pressure by eating dark chocolate, which is a comparable reduction in blood pressure to exercising 30 minutes a day. The researchers believe that eating dark chocolate could lower the risk of a cardiovascular event by 20 percent over five years.
The researchers also found that dark chocolate only lowered blood pressure in people who had hypertension and did not affect the blood pressure in those who had a normal reading. They also did not specify the exact amount of dark chocolate that should be consumed to lower blood pressure. However, the Mayo Clinic of Rochester, MN feels that eating no more than three ounces of dark chocolate a day, which contains a level of 65 percent or higher of real cocoa, can be beneficial to treating heart disease.
Dark Chocolate Lowers Stroke Risk
In addition to lowering blood pressure, eating dark chocolate may lower the risk of stroke as well as protect against brain injury from a stroke. According to research presented at the April, 2010 American Academy of Neurology’s 62nd Annual Meeting, eating dark chocolate was found to lower the risk of having a stroke and lower the risk of death after a stroke. The study found that people who ate one serving of dark chocolate each week lowered their risk of stroke by 22 percent and people who ate 50 grams of dark chocolate each week lowered their risk of dying of a stroke by 46 percent. Once again, the researchers stated that the flavonoids in dark chocolate were responsible for the lowered risk of stroke.
Another study reported in May, 2010 stated researchers from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine discovered a new compound in dark chocolate which may protect the brain from injury after a stroke occurs. The compound, epicatechin, found naturally in dark chocolate, increases the cellular signals that shield nerve cells from damage after a stoke occurs. While the researchers were not clear on how much dark chocolate had to be consumed, they did state that small amounts are sufficient.
Is all Dark Chocolate Healthy?
Not all dark chocolate is effective in lowering blood pressure or protecting the body from stroke. According to the Johns Hopkins’ researchers, just because a product is labeled “dark chocolate” doesn’t mean it will contain epicatechin or other active ingredients. Most chocolate is heated and sugar and other ingredients are added, taking away the strength of flavanoids as well as epicatechin. It is recommended to look for dark chocolate which still contains at least 65 percent of cocoa, although 85 percent or higher is better, and that has the least amount of processing. Many health food stores carry the brands of the purest dark chocolate.
Doctors also stress the fact that more chocolate doesn’t mean a healthier heart. Chocolate is rich in fat and sugar and is high in calories. Only eat dark chocolate in moderation for its health benefits.