Research Sheds Light on Dark Chocolate’s Ability to Lower Blood Pressure

chocolate bars
Food as Medicine

chocolate barsI’ve heard people say they would like to one day learn that chocolate is good for them. Unfortunately, there is usually cake or ice cream involved in the discussion, and their idea of heaven-sent advice would be a recommendation to consume chocolate from a delicious baked goods source. While that isn’t likely to happen anytime soon, we are learning more and more about the benefits of high quality dark chocolate, including its ability to potentially lower blood pressure.

The Cochrane Collaboration, a scientific group that works to come up with research regarding health care, has recently reviewed 20 studies regarding the effects of dark chocolate on blood pressure and found a small “but statistically significant” positive effect.

The studies included in the review were widely varied, but involved a total of 856 “mainly healthy” individuals participating for anywhere from 1 to 18 weeks.

After reviewing the studies, it was found that dark chocolate is associated with a decrease in blood pressure of about 2-3 mm Hg. While this isn’t enough to take someone with “high blood pressure” to a risk free or healthy zone, it is still worthy of note and demonstrates that dark chocolate could play a role in some natural blood pressure treatment.

One other study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, also indicates that dark chocolate could assist in lowering blood pressure.

The study abstract concludes:

“Data in this relatively small sample of otherwise healthy individuals with above-optimal BP indicate that inclusion of small amounts of polyphenol-rich dark chocolate as part of a usual diet efficiently reduced BP and improved formation of vasodilative nitric oxide.”

It wouldn’t be a bad idea to consume some chocolate high in cocoa while experimenting with other ‘more powerful’ blood pressure home remedies.

Choosing the Right Chocolate

In order for chocolate to deliver the components found to benefit blood pressure, you can’t opt for ice cream or the majority of mass produced candy bars. The flavanols in dark chocolate are where you will find the benefits. Choosing chocolate with at least 70% cocoa is ideal, and more is even better.

Other natural methods of blood pressure reduction include a diet low in added salt, rich in organic produce, and an active lifestyle. Also, meditation. As NPR reports, meditation has been shown to reduce blood pressure by 10 to 30 mm Hg, statistically even more than dark chocolate.

A bit of chocolate and a daily meditation session won’t only make you happier, it could also make you healthier.