Cocoa flavanols (a compound found in cocoa) have been found to reduce blood pressure and arterial stiffness. However, it remains unknown whether flavanols are effective in reducing blood pressure in everyday life, as the relevant studies were conducted in tightly controlled experimental settings.
A recent University of Surrey-led study found that cocoa lowered blood pressure and arterial stiffness only when blood pressure was elevated. The new study further eases concerns about cocoa as a treatment for elevated blood pressure, demonstrating that it does not normally pose a health risk by lowering blood pressure , paving the way for its use in clinical practice.
Cocoa reduces blood pressure and arterial stiffness only when blood pressure is elevated | ref 
The first study of its kind focused on the use of flavanols to lower blood pressure and arterial stiffness outside the clinical setting. Christian Heiss, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Surrey, said: “Hypertension and arteriosclerosis increase a person’s risk of heart disease and stroke, and it is crucial to develop innovative ways to treat these conditions. Before considering introducing cocoa into clinical practice , we need to test results previously reported in a laboratory setting to verify that these results are applicable to everyday life.”
In the study, 11 healthy participants alternated between six cocoa flavanol capsules or six placebo capsules containing brown sugar. Using an upper arm blood pressure monitor and a finger clip that measures pulse wave velocity (PWV), the researchers measured the participants’ arterial stiffness.
Participants measured blood pressure and PWV once before taking the capsules; again every 30 minutes for the first 3 hours after taking the capsule; then every hour for the remaining 9 hours. The researchers found that the participants’ blood pressure and arterial stiffness decreased only when blood pressure was high, and had no effect in the morning when blood pressure was low.
Participants measured blood pressure and PWV before taking capsules | Pixabay
The study also established for the first time that cocoa was still effective eight hours after consumption. The researchers believe that this may be due to the way the flora in the gut metabolizes cocoa flavanols.
Professor Heiss added: “The positive effect of cocoa flavanols on our cardiovascular system, particularly vascular function and blood pressure, is undeniable. Physicians are often concerned that certain antihypertensive drugs may lower blood pressure excessively in some cases. Our Findings showed that cocoa flavanols lowered blood pressure only when blood pressure was elevated. Combined with the participants’ personal health devices, we learned how blood pressure and arterial stiffness changed on a daily basis, and presented the development and implementation of personal health monitors. role in effective personalized care.”
 Bapir, M., Campagnolo, P., Rodriguez-Mateos, A., Skene, SS, & Heiss, C. (2022). Assessing variability in vascular response to cocoa with personal devices: a series of double-blind randomized crossover n-of-1 trials. Frontiers in nutrition, 9.
Editor: Jin Xiaoming
Typesetting: Yin Ningliu
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First author/corresponding authorMariam Bapir/Christian Heiss
Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Surrey, Guildford, United Kingdom;
Department of Biochemical Sciences, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Surrey, Guildford, United Kingdom;
Department of Nutritional Sciences, School of Life Course and Population Sciences, Faculty of Life Sciences and Medicine, King’s College London, London, United Kingdom );
Vascular Department, Surrey and Sussex NHS Healthcare Trust, Redhill, United Kingdom.
Published the journal Frontiers in nutrition
Posted on June 14, 2022
Paper title Assessing variability in vascular response to cocoa with personal devices: a series of randomized double-blind crossover n-of-1 trials
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