Forget those apples. Daily dark chocolate bars could keep the doctor, the cardiologist in particular, away, according to new research. The small study adds to the growing body of science backing the health-promoting powers of cocoa.
Researchers found that a daily bar of dark chocolate with lycopene correlated with reduced the blood pressure of subjects with prehypertension. Prehypertension is a blood pressure category that includes the 25 percent of Americans in the gray zone between normal blood pressure and hypertension. One study published in the journal Neurology suggested that people with prehypertension were 66 percent more likely to develop a stroke than people with normal blood pressure.
The new study included 34 subjects between 45 and 70 years of age. One group consumed a regular daily dark chocolate bar (85 percent cacao), a second group consumed bars and lycopene capsules, and a third group ate chocolate bars formulated with lycopene (7 mg). After two weeks, researchers found a statistically significant drop in blood pressure among all subjects, with the greatest reduction seen among the subjects who ate the lycopene dark chocolate bar, suggesting that that formulation increased the bioavailability of the cocoa flavanols.
The results were published in the journal Food Science Nutrition and noted on the American Botanical Council’s HerbClip. The findings are in line with recent research from The Netherlands that suggests that dark chocolate helps restore flexibility to our arteries and prevents white blood cells from sticking to blood vessel walls.