Two studies from University Hospital Düsseldorf found cocoa flavanols can lower blood pressure, increase blood vessel function, and protect the elderly heart and inhibit atherosclerosis.
In the first study, published in Age, two groups of 22 young (<35 years of age) and 20 older (50-80 years of age) healthy men consumed either a flavanol-containing drink, or a flavanol-free control drink, twice a day for two weeks. The researchers measured the effect of flavanols on hallmarks of cardiovascular aging, such as arterial stiffness, blood pressure and flow-mediated vasodilation, the extent to which blood vessels dilate in response to nitric oxide. The vasodilation they found was significantly improved in both groups that consumed flavanols over the course of the study. In the older age group, a statistically and clinically significant decrease in systolic blood pressure of four mmHg over control was also seen.
And in the second study, published in BJN, researchers extended their investigations to a group with 100 healthy middle-aged men and women (35~60 years) with low risk of CVD. Participants were randomly and blindly assigned into groups that consumed either a flavanol-containing drink or a flavanol-free control drink, twice a day for four weeks. Researchers also measured cholesterol levels in the study groups, in addition to vasodilation, arterial stiffness and blood pressure. And they found that consuming flavanols for four weeks significantly increased flow-mediated vasodilation by 21%. In addition, taking flavanols decreased blood pressure (systolic by 4.4 mmHg, diastolic by 3.9 mmHg), and improved the blood cholesterol profile by decreasing total cholesterol (by 0.2 mmol/L), decreasing LDL cholesterol (by 0.17 mmol/L), and increasing HDL cholesterol (by 0.1 mmol/L).
The research team will go on study the cardiovascular risk prediction of framingham score in the next 10 years. “Our results, compared with control group, taking cocoa flavanols group, the risk of cardiovascular disease may be decreased by 22% within 10 years, and the risk of heart attack may be decreased by 31%.” Malte Kelm professor said.
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