Could the hot cup of cocoa that livens up your day be good for your heart? Well, some researchers believe so whereas others disagree.
Some researchers suggest that cocoa intake protects the inner lining of the blood vessels and prevents the formation of plaques. Plaques tend to stiffen the arteries. They could also narrow and block the blood vessels. The protective effect of cocoa could possibly be attributed to its antioxidant property. Cocoa is rich in flavanols that protect the blood vessels. Unfortunately, a lot of the flavanols are destroyed during processing of cocoa, thus neutralizing the beneficial effects.
AdvertisementA recently published study assessed the protective effect of cocoa on blood vessels in 351 subjects. These individuals also had conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes or high lipid levels, which increase the risk for developing heart disease. Information regarding cocoa intake was obtained through a questionnaire. People taking ≤1 serving/week were considered as low cocoa consumers whereas those taking more than 1 serving per week were referred to as high consumers.
Various parameters related to the heart and blood vessels were measured. These included central and peripheral blood pressure, central and peripheral augmentation index, pulse wave velocity, ambulatory arterial stiffness index, carotid intima-media thickness, and ankle-brachial index.
More number of males reported high cocoa consumption in the study. However, it was found that cocoa intake did not affect arterial stiffness or blood pressure measurements in these patients.
The study however did not take into consideration the flavanol content of the cocoa; thus further studies may be required to establish the benefit of cocoa with high flavanol content in people at a risk for heart disease.
1. Jose I Recio-rodriguez et al. Cocoa intake and arterial stiffness in subjects with cardiovascular risk factors. Nutrition Journal 2012, 11:8 doi:10.1186/1475-2891-11-8.