Sunday, January 2, 2011

Chocolate Effectively Lowers Risk from High Blood Pressure

(Article first published as Chocolate Protects Against High Blood Pressure and Heart Disase on Technorati.)
High blood pressure is a significant concern as it significantly raises the incidence of vascular disease and stroke. As a result of stress, poor diet and lifestyle, enzymes in our body produce a substance known as angiotensin II that causes blood vessels to narrow and blood pressure to increase. 

Standard medical practice is to prescribe ACE inhibitors to inhibit the action of these enzymes, often with mixed results and always dangerous side effects. Researchers have now confirmed that natural flavanols found in cacao from chocolate can lower blood pressure as effectively as the Big Pharma solutions.

Natural Flavanols from Cacao Effectively Regulate Blood Pressure
Researchers have known for some time that the active catechins and procyanidines in many fruits, vegetables and green tea promote health and protect against disease through a variety of biochemical mechanisms. The results of a study published in the Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology explains how flavanols from cacao and dark chocolate inhibit the action of angiotensin to influence the body’s fluid balance and effectively regulate blood pressure.
Study Demonstrates Blood Pressure Lowering Effect of Chocolate
The study involved ten men and six women aged 20 to 45 who were fed 75 grams of unsweetened chocolate with a cacao content of 72%. Blood samples were taken before and again after eating the sample chocolate to analyze the activity of the ACE enzyme. Researchers were amazed to find that the enzyme activity was reduced by 18%, effectively lowering dangerous blood pressure as well or even better than many pharmaceuticals.

The lead author concluded, “Our findings indicate that changes in lifestyle with the help of foods that contain large concentrations of catechins and procyaninides prevent cardiovascular diseases.” It`s important to note that the results were produced using unsweetened cacao as found in many specialty dark chocolates. The same benefits would not be conferred with commonly available sweetened milk chocolate and semi-sweet varieties.

Flavanols From Chocolate Increases Nitric Oxide, Relaxes Blood Vessels
Information reported in the journal BMC Medicine combines the results of 15 independent studies on the vessel dilating effects of flavanols from chocolate. Researchers found that moderate consumption of chocolate with a high percentage of cacao showed significant blood pressure reduction in people with high blood pressure, and no effect on individuals with normal pressure readings. Flavanols increase the natural formation of endothelial nitric oxide that exhibits a relaxing effect on blood vessel walls and lowered blood pressure.

Cacao from chocolate is shown to be yet another example of how a natural compound can promote health and prevent disease. Flavanols and catechins are chemical compounds found in unprocessed foods that are essential to human health. When consumed or supplemented as part of a whole food diet they demonstrate reduced risk of disease without the damaging side effects commonly seen with pharmaceuticals.

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