Chocolate Protects Against High Blood Pressure, Stroke

A new study suggests yet another potential benefit of chocolate consumption.

ByABC News
March 30, 2010, 3:37 PM

March 30, 2010— -- Willy Wonka may have been on the right track -- chocolate may be a sweet way to control blood pressure and thus protect the heart, according to a report from German researchers.

But before you stock up on chocolate bunnies, consider this: the chocolate benefit was greatest among people who consumed about 7.5 grams of chocolate daily. That works out to about a quarter of an ounce, which is barely a nibble from a typical Hershey bar, which weighs in at 1.55 ounces.

Nonetheless consuming 7.5 grams of chocolate daily resulted in a significantly lower blood pressure than consuming just a sprinkle of it daily, according to Brian Buijsse of the German Institute of Human Nutrition in Nuthetal, Germany, and colleagues.

They reported their findings online in the European Heart Journal.

"It's a little early to make recommendations [about chocolate consumption]," Buijsse told MedPage Today, cautioning that more studies are needed. "But a future recommendation could be that if people eat a small amount of chocolate, they can replace it for something else, maybe leaving out a snack or another sweet."

Chocolate has been studied extensively over the past decade for its potential benefits on the heart and vasculature. Just last month, a study found that chocolate reduces the risk of stroke.

For the present study, the researchers studied almost 20,000 patients who were enrolled in a large European cancer study. All the patients were age 35 to 65 and the study was conducted from 1994 to 2006.

Dietary habits and health outcomes were assessed via questionnaire, and the cohort was followed for a mean of eight years.

The researchers also asked a subset of 1,568 patients to recall their chocolate intake over a 24-hour period to determine which type of chocolate they ate -- white, milk, or dark.

On average blood pressure was about one point lower for both systolic -- the first number in blood pressure -- and diastolic, they said.

During follow-up, there were a total of 166 heart attacks and 136 strokes.