According to the findings of a study conducted by the University of Surrey, cocoa only helps to lower blood pressure and arterial stiffness when these parameters are excessive.
The study’s findings were published in the journal ‘Frontiers in Nutrition.’ Cocoa flavanols have previously been shown to reduce blood pressure and arterial stiffness in the same way that some blood pressure medications do. However, because past research in this field were conducted in closely controlled laboratory conditions, it is uncertain how beneficial flavanols are in ordinary life in lowering blood pressure.
Surrey’s new study dispels worries that using cocoa as a therapy for high blood pressure might pose health dangers by lowering blood pressure when it is not elevated, opening the door for it to be utilised in clinical practise.
Researchers set out to evaluate the potential of flavanols, a chemical found in cocoa, in decreasing blood pressure and arterial stiffness in patients outside of clinical settings in the first study of its type.
Christian Heiss, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Surrey, said: “High blood pressure and arterial stiffness increase a person’s risk of heart disease and strokes, so it is crucial that we investigate innovative ways to treat such conditions.
“Before we even consider introducing cocoa into clinical practices, we need to test if the results previously reported in laboratory settings safely translate into real-world settings, with people going about their everyday lives.”
For many days, eleven healthy individuals alternated between taking six cocoa flavanol capsules and six placebo capsules containing brown sugar. Participants were given an upper arm blood pressure monitor as well as a finger clip monitoring pulse wave velocity (PWV), which measures arterial stiffness.
Blood pressure and PWV were measured before taking the capsules, every 30 minutes after ingestion for the first three hours, and then hourly for the next nine hours. Researchers discovered that participants’ blood pressure and arterial stiffness were only reduced when it was high, and there was no impact when it was low in the morning.
Significantly, effects were also, for the first time, identified eight hours after cocoa was consumed. Researchers believe that this second peak may be due to how bacteria in the gut metabolise cocoa flavanols.
Professor Heiss added, “The positive impact cocoa flavanols have on our cardiovascular system, in particular, blood vessel function and blood pressure is undeniable. Doctors often fear that some blood pressure tablets can decrease blood pressure too much on some days.”
“What we have found indicates that cocoa flavanols only decrease blood pressure if it is elevated. Working with participants’ personal health technologies showed us how variable blood pressure and arterial stiffness can be from day to day and shows the role of personal health monitors in developing and implementing effective personalised care.”