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Cardiovascular Health Channel
Reported July 19, 2005

Chocolate for Your Health

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- According to a new study, a daily bar-sized indulgence of flavonol-rich dark chocolate could reduce blood pressure and improve insulin resistance.

"Previous studies suggest flavonoid-rich foods, including fruits, vegetables, tea, red wine and chocolate, might offer cardiovascular benefits," says Jeffrey B. Blumberg, Ph.D, Senior Scientist at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research on Aging at Tufts University in Boston. "But this in one of the first clinical trials to look specifically at dark chocolate's effect on lowering blood pressure among people with hypertension."

Flavonoids are natural antioxidants found in many foods from plants.

Blumberg and colleagues at the University of L'Aquila in Italy studied 20 people with hypertension. a systolic blood pressure -- the top number in a blood pressure reading -- between 140 and 159 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) and a diastolic blood pressure -- bottom number -- between 90 and 99. The participants were not taking antihypertensive medicines, did not have diabetes or any other diseases, and did not smoke.

Throughout the week before the study, participants avoided all chocolate and other flavonoid-rich foods. For the next 15 days, half ate a 3.5-ounce bar of flavonoid-rich dark chocolate daily, while the other half ate the same amount of white chocolate.

"White chocolate, which has no flavonoids, was the perfect control food because it contains all the other ingredients and calories found in dark chocolate," Blumberg said.

Researchers found a 12 mm Hg decrease in systolic (the top number in a reading) blood pressure and a 9 mm Hg decrease in diastolic (the bottom number in a reading) blood pressure in the dark chocolate group after the 15-day study. They also found the dark chocolate group experienced a considerable decrease in several measures of insulin reduction. There were no changes recorded in the white chocolate group.

According to Blumberg, the results can generate recommendations that improve diets and help people control these risk factors. He adds flavoniod-rich foods should be included in a healthy diet, and dark chocolate can be a part of the effort, along with fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

This article was reported by Ivanhoe.com, who offers Medical Alerts by e-mail every day of the week. To subscribe, go to: /newsalert/.

SOURCE: Journal of the American Heart Association, published online July 13, 2005

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