Early tests suggest that modest consumption may reduce blood pressure
Previous studies have linked flavonols to improved cardiovascular health markers, but this is the first study to look at the effect of chocolate consumption on blood pressure.
"To our knowledge, this is the first observational study that found that habitual cocoa intake was inversely associated with blood pressure in cross-sectional analysis and with cardiovascular and all-cause mortality in prospective analysis," wrote lead author Brian Buijsse from the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, Bilthoven, and Wageningen University, the Netherlands.
Further studies are warranted - not only to include other demographics besides elderly men, but to control for other chemicals in cocoa that may effect cardiovascular health:
Several studies have shown that flavonol consumption increased blood vessel opening (vasodilation), and improve endothelial function (the cells that line the blood vessels).
It is this latter effect that the scientists propose as the mechanism by which the flavonols reduce CVD risk and all-cause mortality.
However, because the scientists did not take blood samples and measure serum levels of different nutrients, it was not possible to identify the exact effect of the cocoa.
"Because cocoa is a rich source of antioxidants, it may also be due to other diseases that are linked to oxidative stress. This merits further investigation," wrote Buijsse.