High blood pressure and dark chocolate not milk chocolate
Another note about high blood pressure. It improves with dark chocolate. Dark chococalte has many heart benefits. Likely due to the high polyphenol content and antioxidant status. Milk chocolate did not show those benefits since the milk protein binds to the polyphenols and decreases absorption in the body.
In the one study they compared dark chocolate to white chocolate and its effect on blood pressure. The researchers noted that the blood pressure decreased in the group randomized to take 100 grams of dark chocolate per day for 2 weeks. But don’t get carried away, dark chocolate can be loaded with sugar and calories–that will have its drawbacks. Especially, for example, if you end up consuming a dark chocolate bar a day that will be 400-500 calories per day. If you just add a chocolate bar everyday to your diet it will likely contribute to obesity which is a risk factor for high blood pressure. So chocolate isn’t the sure answer to hypertension, but it might prove useful if one has a balanced diet. Remember the main lifestyle changes that will generally help with blood pressure are losing excess weight, not overconsuming salt, and exercising regularly.
In another more recent study, small amounts of dark chocoalte have been show to modestly decrease high blood pressure. This time, 44 adults with borderline hypertension were randomly assigned to to have 6.3 grams of dark chocolate or 5.6 grams of white chocolate to their usual daily diet. Interestingly in this study they chose to give one square of a 16-square bar of dark chocolate per day, not the whole bar. But the results weren’t spectacular. The systolic blood pressure dropped by about 3mm Hg and the diastolic blood pressure dropped by about 2 mm Hg. The authors recognized that the numbers weren’t amazing but stated in their conclusion that as a whole population a 3 mm Hg reduction in systolic blood pressure would reduce the relative risk of death due to stroke by 8% and coronary artery disease mortality by 5%, and all-cause mortality by 4%. So as a treat, a dark chocolate square may be a good idea, according to this study since they looked at the benefits of smaller amounts of dark chocolate. But if you consume too much, then the negative effects of the sugar and the fat will outweigh the benefits of the dark chocolate.
In another observational study, researchers compared elderly men who ate an average of 4.2 grams of cocoa per day to men who didn’t eat any. The blood pressure reductions in the men eating cocoa were again small; probably not enough to solely account for a a whopping 50% reduction in cardiovascular mortality and all-cause mortality in the group that consumed the highest cocoa during a 15 years of follow-up. This difference may be because dark chocolate has beneficial effects on other cardiovascular risk factors such as insulin sensitivity and blood clotting tendency, not only blood pressure.
Dr. Dhillon, ND