How flavanols affect blood pressure
Cocoa flavanols counteract increased blood pressure and stiffening of the arteries. However, the flavanols only lower blood pressure when it is elevated and there is no risk of lowering blood pressure too much.
A new study involving experts from the University of Surrey examined the reactions to cocoa flavanols in healthy people in everyday life. The results can be read in the English-language specialist journal “Frontiers in Nutrition”.
Effects of cocoa flavanols investigated
Previous studies have found that flavanols from cocoa could reduce blood pressure and arterial stiffness to a similar extent as some blood pressure medications. However, it remained unclear how effective flavanols are in everyday life in lowering blood pressure, the researchers report.
Therefore, the use of flavanols to reduce blood pressure and arterial stiffness in individuals outside of a clinical setting has now been investigated. For this purpose, eleven healthy participants without high blood pressure took six cocoa flavanol capsules on four days and six placebo capsules with brown sugar on the other four days over a period of eight consecutive days.
All participants also received an upper arm blood pressure monitor and a finger clip to measure the so-called pulse wave velocity, which measures the degree of artery stiffness, the team reports.
The experts found that taking flavanols reduced arterial stiffness and blood pressure. However, the effect was only apparent if the blood pressure of affected people was increased.
This applied both when comparing participants and when looking at individual people with different blood pressure values over the course of the day. For example, no effect was detectable if blood pressure was already low in the morning.
In addition, the effects of flavanols were observed for the first time eight hours after their intake, the researchers report. This is probably due to how intestinal bacteria metabolize the cocoa flavanols.
Flavanols have a positive effect on the cardiovascular system
“The positive effects of cocoa flavanols on our cardiovascular system, especially on the function of blood vessels and blood pressure, are undeniable,” emphasizes study author Professor Christian Heiss in a press release.
It is often feared that blood pressure tablets can lower blood pressure too much on some days. This danger does not appear to exist with flavanols. “What we found suggests that cocoa flavanols only lower blood pressure when it is elevated,” adds the doctor.
“High blood pressure and stiffening of the arteries increase the risk of heart disease and stroke, so it is important that we research innovative ways to treat such diseases,” continues Professor Heiss. (as)