Results of a Dutch observational study show that regular consumption of cocoa-containing foods lowers blood pressure (BP) and reduces the risk of death. The findings were reported in the February 2006 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.
The study involved 470 elderly men who were free from chronic disease at enrollment. Their BP was measured at baseline and 5 years later, and a dietary history was taken every 5 years for 15 years from baseline. At the start of the study, two thirds of the men reported consuming an average of 2.11 g of cocoa a day, the most common sources being plain chocolate and chocolate bars.
After taking into account all other factors, the researchers found that the consumption of cocoa was inversely associated with BP. Mean systolic and diastolic BPs were 3.7 and 2.1 mm Hg lower, respectively, in people with the highest cocoa intake, compared with those with the lowest. Also, cocoa intake was related to a lower risk of dying during follow-up. Researchers suggest that, because cocoa is a rich source of antioxidants, it could have a positive effect on diseases related to oxidative stress, and that these findings merit continued study.