Monday, July 30, 2007

Great News for Dark Chocolate Lovers

A report in the July 4 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) showed that eating polyphenol-rich dark chocolate as part of a usual diet reduced blood pressure and improved the formation of vasodilative nitric oxide in otherwise healthy people with above-optimal blood pressure.

Twenty-four women and 20 men with untreated upper-range prehypertension or stage 1 hypertension without concomitant risk factors took part in the 18-week study. Subjects were randomly assigned to receive either 6.3 grams of dark chocolate containing 30 milligrams of polyphenols on a daily basis or matching polyphenol-free white chocolate. The primary outcome measure was the change in blood pressure. Secondary outcome measures included changes in plasma markers of vasodilative nitric oxide and oxidative stress, and the bioavailability of cocoa polyphenols.

Dark chocolate intake significantly reduced systolic and diastolic blood pressure, while hypertension prevalence declined from 86 percent to 68 percent.

White chocolate intake caused no changes in blood pressure.


James Waugh, MD said...

Green tea polyphenols have also been suggested in a number of studies to lower blood pressure.

Ellen said...

Thanks Dr. Waugh.

I also came across a human clinical trial done at UC Davis, School of Medicine that found 150 mg of Grape Seed extract polyphenols reduced systolic pressure by 12 mm and diastolic pressure by 8mm 12 hours after ingestion compared to placebo.

Paul said...

So does this mean my dessert of choice; a piece of dark Dutch chocolate and a small glass of great cabernet should be followed by a morning cup of green tea to help keep my slightly elevated blood pressure in check?

Ellen said...

It depends on how high you blood pressure is and if you have known risk factors that are not controllable like:

Race - Blacks develop high blood pressure more often than whites, and it tends to occure earlier and be more severe.

Heredity - If your parents or other close blood relatives have high blood pressure, you're more likely to develop it.

Age - In general, the older we get, the greater our chance of developing high blood pressure.

So, if your blood pressure is off the charts, of course you should be on meds. But,if it's slightly elevated, dietary and lifestyle changes will hopefully do the trick.

The risk factors that you can control include:

Eating too much salt
Drinking too much alcohol
Lack of physical activity

All blood pressure meds have side effects, although not to serious so says the pharmaceutical companies.

Some of the more common side effects listed are:

Dizziness or lightheadedness
Nausea and/or vomiting
Lack of energy
Diarrhea or constipation
Weight loss or weight gain
Nervousness or increased anxiety
Chest pain
Heart palpitations
Cough, fever, congestion, upper respiratory tract infection or "flu-like" symptoms
Skin rash

Given the above list, good dark chocolate (think European), small amounts of red wine and a cup or two of green tea every day sounds like a better choice - and certainly more fun.

wisegrl said...

If you are going to consume dark chocolate as part of a healthy diet, make sure that you are eating European dark chocolate vs.American dark chocolate. You no longer can be sure just how much cocoa there is in any given chocolate bar; especially the kind you buy at your local supermarket chain.

If the American Chocolate Manufacturers Association has its way there will soon be even less cocoa in your next candy bar! It makes you wonder what the Mayas and Aztecs would think of "our" chocolate if they were around to taste it; since they did not use sugar to sweeten their chocolate.

wisegrl said...

What wisegirl is refering to as an article in Wikipedia, that read as follows:

In March 2007, the Chocolate Manufacturers Association, began lobbying the FDA to change the legal definition of chocolate to let them substitute "safe and suitable vegetable fats and oils" (including partially hydrogenated vegetable oils) for cocoa butter in addition to using "any sweetening agent" (including artificial sweeteners) and milk substitutes. Currently, the FDA does not allow a product to be referred to as "chocolate" if the product contains any of these ingredients.

To read the full article log on to:

Tisha Mallon said...

If you are, right and there is no sugar or artificial sweetners, or partially hydrogenated fat (trans-fat) in U.S. chocolate at this time, why does everyone think European chocolate is better for us?

Jeffrey Anshel, OD said...

I guess this means that a POUND of chocolate is better than just 6 oz., right?? ;)

Ellen said...

Dr. Anshel,

If you're looking for an excuse to indulge your notorious sweet tooth, forget it.

Spencer Thornton, M.D. said...

The JAMA article on the benefits of dark chocolate was encouraging for those who value polyphenols for lowering blood pressure and reducing stress. But which is best? Consumer Reports recommends Hershey's Extra Dark (at 57 cents per ounce) or Hershey's Cacao Reserve (at 68 cents)- better than the more expensive Dove or Ghirardelli.

Jeffrey Anshel, OD said...

well, of COURSE! Remember, more is better (of the sweet stuff)....

Lily said...

I’ve seen ads on TV for Caduet. It has two ingredients. One is Amlodipine and the other is Atorvastatin. With my RxDrugCard I can get 30 tablets of Amlodipine for $9 and 30 tablets of Simvastatin for $9. I’ll bet they are charging more than $18 for this new drug! Don’t pressure your doctor into giving you something just because it’s new. Do your homework. Find a drug card like I did at I think that is the best drug card available for prescription discounts.

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(Posted on cPost scPost for R4i Nintendo DS.)

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