Simple Ingredients in Guilty Pleasures Could Help Lower Cholesterol and Blood Pressure

 Simple Ingredients in Guilty Pleasures Could Help Lower Cholesterol and Blood Pressure

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Our diet has a significant impact on our health and well-being, with certain foods known to increase or decrease our risk for various conditions. While fruits and vegetables are often associated with the healthiest food options, recent research suggests that a delicious ingredient found in many indulgent foods could be key to maintaining a healthy heart.

Specifically, cocoa—a primary component of chocolate—has been found to have properties that lower cholesterol and blood pressure. A new meta-study published in the Nutrients journal analyzed 31 randomized, controlled trials that monitored several cardiovascular disease risk factors.

These trials involved a total of 1,986 participants, divided into groups based on their cocoa consumption. In one group, 1,110 participants consumed either cocoa extract or dark chocolate with a cocoa content of 70 percent or higher for at least four weeks. In contrast, the control group of 876 participants consumed a placebo or white or milk chocolate containing less than 70 percent cocoa, reports Gloucestershire Live.

Most participants had one or more existing health conditions, including high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and high cholesterol. Improvements were observed among the participants consuming high cocoa content.

Researchers found that cocoa consumption could reduce cholesterol by 8.35 mg/dL and fasting blood sugar levels by 4.91 mg/dL, while also lowering systolic and diastolic blood pressure by 2.52 mmHg and 1.58 mmHg, respectively. They explained, “The consumption of cocoa showed protective effects on major cardiometabolic risk markers that have a clinical impact in terms of cardiovascular risk reduction.”

Summing up the findings, the study noted, “We conclude that the consumption of cocoa as a dietary supplement in cocoa extract capsules or dark-chocolate products has a protective effect on most cardiometabolic risk markers evaluated in this analysis, including total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein, fasting blood glucose, systolic blood pressure, and diastolic blood pressure.”

However, the research did not find any significant changes in total body weight or body mass index among other health indicators.

The authors of the study advocate for the intake of polyphenol-rich cocoa as a heart-protecting measure, adding, “Long-term, multicenter well-designed randomized controlled tests are needed to confirm or refute our findings. In addition, the positive effects of cocoa should be demonstrated not only in surrogate outcomes but also in clinical trials assessing cardiovascular events in populations in primary and secondary prevention.”

Wrapping up their advice, they suggested, “Nevertheless, considering our results, we suggest that the consumption of polyphenol-rich cocoa could be part of a strategy aimed at promoting cardiovascular health.”

An expert not involved in the study, cardiology dietitian Michelle Routhenstein, shared insights on how cocoa can benefit heart health. Speaking with Medical News Today, she explained, “Cocoa is a good source of catechins and other polyphenolic compounds like flavanols known for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which can support cardiovascular health.” It’s important to remember that while cocoa has health benefits, chocolate is also high in sugar and calories, so moderation is key to reaping its perks without adverse effects.

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