- Dark chocolate and flavanol-rich cocoa products have attracted interest as an alternative treatment option for high blood pressure, a known risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD).1 Flavanols are the active ingredient in the chocolate that cause dilation of blood vessels resulting in blood pressure reduction.
- A meta-analysis of all the chocolate studies from 1955 to 2009 has shown favorable effects on blood pressure. Nine trials used chocolate containing 50% to 70% cocoa compared with white chocolate or other cocoa-free controls, while six trials compared high- with low-flavanol cocoa products. Daily flavanol dosages ranged from 30 mg to 1000 mg in the active treatment groups, and interventions ran for 2 to 18 weeks. 1
- Chocolate consumption was associated with a 3 point decrease in blood pressure in people with prehypertension and 5 points decrease in people with high blood pressure.1
- Treatment of prehypertension (120-139/80-89 mmHg) may forestall progression to high blood pressure. Flavanol-rich chocolate and lycopene-rich tomato extract have attracted interest as potential alternative treatment options for high blood pressure.
- Although most subjects, especially women love chocolate, a randomized study found that half of the participants allocated to the chocolate treatment found it hard to eat 50 g of dark chocolate (70% cocoa containing 750 mg polyphenols), every day and 20% considered it an unacceptable long-term treatment option.2
- In order to overcome the bitter taste, ingredients such as sugar, butter, and milk are added to cocoa with all the adverse health consequences from these added ingredients (See Food Label).
- Chocolate consumption usually results in depressed mood with greater consumption associated with greater depression.3-5
1. What is the role of eating chocolate in preventing heart disease and diabetes?
A. The main ingredient in chocolate is cocoa products that contain antioxidant rich flavonoids. Higher levels of chocolate consumption were consistently associated with about a third in the risk of CVD (37% reduction) and diabetes (31% reduction). The high sugar and fat content of commercially sold chocolate (500 kcal/100 g) often leads to weight gain and high cholesterol.6
1. Ried K, Sullivan T, Fakler P, Frank OR, Stocks NP. Does chocolate reduce blood pressure? A meta-analysis. BMC Med. 2010;8:39.
2. Ried K, Frank OR, Stocks NP. Dark chocolate or tomato extract for prehypertension: a randomised controlled trial. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2009;9:22.
3. Rose N, Koperski S, Golomb BA. Mood food: chocolate and depressive symptoms in a cross-sectional analysis. Arch Intern Med. Apr 26 2010;170(8):699-703.
4. Parker G, Crawford J. Chocolate craving when depressed: a personality marker. Br J Psychiatry. Oct 2007;191:351-352.
5. Lester D, Bernard D. Liking for chocolate, depression, and suicidal preoccupation. Psychol Rep. Oct 1991;69(2):570.
6. Buitrago-Lopez A., Sanderson J, Johnson L, et al. Chocolate consumption and cardiometabolic disorders: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ. 2011;343:d4488.