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The One-Week-of-Dark-Chocolate Fix?

Plain, bland and austere are words that aptly describe the eating plans physicians have traditionally given to patients at risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD) and hypertension. But new research has injected these staid prescriptions with a wicked, dark-chocolate swirl.

Researchers from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro recently published a study in the International Journal of Hypertension (2013; doi: 10.1155/2013/985087) indicating that 1 week of daily dark-chocolate intake “significantly improved endothelial function and reduced blood pressure in younger hypertensive [subjects] with impaired endothelial function in spite of [their] lower cardiovascular risk,” according to the abstract. “Younger” subjects in the study were 55 years old plus or minus 7 years. The authors indicated that a significant number of human studies have analyzed the effect of foods rich in flavonoids—such as cocoa-derived products—on the presence and progression of risk factors associated with CVD.

The study followed 21 hypertensive men and women (76% female) aged 40-65 who consumed 75 grams (about three-quarters of a cup) per day of flavonoid-rich dark chocolate with 70% cocoa for 7 days. Though relatively small changes were observed, the authors felt the reductions were “clinically significant, since it has been found that a reduction of 3 mmHg in systolic BP can reduce relative risk of death from stroke by 8%, from cardiovascular disease in general by 5%, and overall all-cause mortality by 4%.”

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