Good news! Cocoa really does help you live longer.
A study of elderly Dutch men indicates that eating or drinking cocoa is associated with lower blood pressure and a reduced risk of death, according to an article in the February 27 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.
Cocoa has been linked to cardiovascular health benefits since at least the 18th century, but researchers are just beginning to collect scientific evidence for these claims, according to background information in the article. Cocoa is now known to contain chemicals called flavan-3-ols, which have been linked to lower blood pressure and improved function of the cells lining the blood vessels.
Brian Buijsse, M.Sc., National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, Bilthoven, the Netherlands, and colleagues examined cocoa's relationship to cardiovascular health in 470 Dutch men aged 65 to 84 years. The men underwent physical examinations and were interviewed about their dietary intake when they enrolled in the study in 1985 and at follow-up visits in 1990 and 1995. The researchers then placed them into three groups based on their level of cocoa consumption. Information about their subsequent illnesses and deaths were obtained from hospital or government data.
Over the next 15 years, men who consumed cocoa regularly had significantly lower blood pressure than those who did not. Over the course of the study, 314 men died, 152 due to cardiovascular diseases. Men in the group with the highest cocoa consumption were half as likely as the others to die from cardiovascular disease. Their risk remained lower even when considering other factors, such as weight, smoking habits, physical activity levels, calorie intake and alcohol consumption. The men who consumed more cocoa were also less likely to die of any cause.
Although blood pressure is usually linked with risk of cardiovascular death, that was not the case in this study. "The lower cardiovascular mortality risk associated with cocoa intake could not be attributed to the lower blood pressure observed with cocoa use," the authors write. "Our findings, therefore, suggest that the lower cardiovascular mortality risk related with cocoa intake is mediated by mechanisms other than lowering blood pressure." The benefits associated with flavan-3-ols may play a role.
Of course some people are determined to believe that nothing that you love could possibly be good for you. Cathy Ross, medical spokesperson for the British Heart Foundation, still discourages chocolate consumption.
"Cocoa is rarely tolerable in large amounts in its raw state and therefore to consume the suggested therapeutic amount you would have to have 100g of dark chocolate per day.
"This would mean an average intake of 500 calories per 100g and an average 30% of fat. Eating less did not produce the same effect.
"We are certainly not suggesting people never eat chocolate - everyone can enjoy a treat from time to time.
"But there are much better ways of improving your heart health."
If you are going to eat chocolate then the darker and the lower in sugar the better. I personally get semi-sweet cooking chocolate. I'd like to find some lower in sugar and cocoa butter. To keep the calories down as an alterrnative I've started eating cocoa powder straight on occasion. Might try it in apple sauce and eat it more regularly instead of dark chocolate.
Not all dark chocolates are the same. Processing removes some of the antioxidants. Mars dark chocolate has more of the antioxidants than the average chocolate. But I'm not clear on how big a difference there is between the various dark chocolates. I'd really like to find a cocoa powder that has the least amount of flavanoids and flavanols removed. Such a cocoa powder might be more bitter tasting though.
What I want to know: Does cocoa keep down blood pressure by increasing nitric acid synthesis? If so, it might just be a mild aphrodisiac as well.
|Share |||Randall Parker, 2006 February 27 08:41 PM Aging Diet Studies|