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Cocoa Benefits

Cocoa Health Benefits


Foods rich in cocoa appear to reduce blood pressure but not tea according to an analysis of previously published research in the April 9 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

Current guidelines advise individuals with hypertension (high blood pressure) to eat more fruits and vegetables, according to background information in the article. Compounds known as polyphenols or flavonoids in fruits and vegetables are thought to contribute to their beneficial effects on blood pressure and cardiovascular risk. "Tea and cocoa products account for the major proportion of total polyphenol intake in Western countries," the authors write. "However, cocoa and tea are currently not implemented in cardioprotective or anti-hypertensive dietary advice, although both have been associated with lower incidences of cardiovascular events." Green tea although not tested for lowering blood pressure is especially good for your health.

Dirk Taubert, M.D., Ph.D., and colleagues at the University Hospital of Cologne, Germany, conducted a meta-analysis of 10 previously published trials, five of cocoa's effects on blood pressure and five involving tea. All results were published between 1966 and 2006, involved at least 10 adults and lasted a minimum of seven days. The studies were either randomized trials, in which some participants were randomly assigned to cocoa or tea groups and some to control groups, or used a crossover design, in which participants' blood pressure was assessed before and after consuming cocoa products or tea.

The five cocoa studies involved 173 participants, including 87 assigned to consume cocoa and 86 controls, 34 percent of whom had hypertension (high blood pressure). They were followed for a median (middle) duration of two weeks. Four of the five trials reported a reduction in both systolic (the top number, when the heart contracts) and diastolic (the bottom number, when the heart relaxes) blood pressure. Compared with those who were not consuming cocoa, systolic blood pressure was an average of 4.7 millimeters of mercury lower and diastolic blood pressure was an average of 2.8 millimeters of mercury lower.

The effects are comparable to those achieved with blood pressure-lowering medications, the authors note. "At the population level, a reduction of 4 to 5 millimeters of mercury in systolic blood pressure and 2 to 3 millimeters of mercury in diastolic blood pressure would be expected to substantially reduce the risk of stroke (by about 20 percent), coronary heart disease (by 10 percent) and all-cause mortality (by 8 percent)," they write.

Of the 343 individuals in the five tea studies, 171 drank tea and 172 served as controls, for a median duration of four weeks. Drinking tea was not associated with a reduction in blood pressure in any of the trials.

Tea and cocoa are both rich in polyphenols, but while black and green tea contain more compounds known as flavan-3-ols, cocoa contains more of another type of polyphenol, procyanids. "This suggests that the different plant phenols must be differentiated with respect to their blood pressure-lowering potential and thus cardiovascular disease prevention, supposing that the tea phenols are less active than cocoa phenols," the authors write.

Dark chocolate and other cocoa products contain antioxidants including the polyphenol epicatechin that have beneficial effects on vascular function. Oral consumption of dark chocolate lowers blood pressure in elderly subjects with isolated systolic hypertension while drinking cocoa acutely improves flow-mediated vasodilation in subjects with cardiovascular risk factors. 

The findings do not indicate a widespread recommendation for higher cocoa intake to decrease blood pressure, but it appears reasonable to substitute phenol-rich cocoa products such as sugar free, organic dark chocolate for other high-calorie or high-fat desserts or dairy products. "We believe that any dietary advice must account for the high sugar, fat and calorie intake with most cocoa products," the authors conclude. "Rationally applied, cocoa products might be considered part of dietary approaches to lower hypertension risk."

There's also strong evidence that regularly drinking cocoa may alleviate -- if not cancel out altogether -- the development of age-related hypertension (high blood pressure), and other associated cardiovascular difficulties. Norman Hollenberg of Harvard Medical School specialized in studies on aging and blood brain flow response. His most interesting findings came from a study of the Kuna Indian population in Panama, specifically, the island-dwelling populace rather than those who had been assimilated into the mainland. The isolated Kuna did not exhibit the typical rising blood pressure as they aged; those who had migrated to the mainland, however, did suffer from age-related hypertension. Hollenberg found that the islanders drank incredible amounts of cocoa, more than 20 cups per week, compared to two or three cups for mainland-dwellers. It was the only unique environmental factor that could account for the largely nonexistent occurrence of hypertension among the islanders.

The key may lie in nitric oxide, an ancient hormone that scientists believe facilitates cell-to-cell communication in living organisms. You know, like the slime mold, an organism made up of single cells that must communicate with each other. Hollenberg was intrigued by prior studies indicating that flavanol-rich cocoa -- the bitter-tasting, unprocessed cocoa, I should note, not the excessively sweetened Swiss Miss variety with mini-marshmallows, which has been stripped of much of its natural flavanols -- can influence blood flow to the brain through the nitric oxide pathway, and conducted his own study on healthy subjects over 50.

Raw cacao protects the liver, brain and heart. It stabilizes mood, helps detoxify the blood and in a very real way brightens your day.Only raw, unprocessed cacao offers the best benefits and consumers should avoid purchasing processed chocolate products made with refined sugar or milk fat. We recommend that you buy sugar free, organic, raw, dark cocoa and sweeten it with stevia.Yummy!

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Article adapted by Medical News Today from original press release.
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(Arch Intern Med. 2007;167:626-634.)

Could hot cocoa be the next "wonder drug"
for high blood pressure?

Harvard researchers praise stunningly simple discovery!


According to recent estimates, nearly 1-in-3 American adults has high blood pressure. But for the Kuna Indians living on a group of islands off the Caribbean coast of Panama, hypertension doesn't even exist. In fact, after age 60, the average blood pressure for Kuna Indian islanders is a perfect 110/70.

Kuna Indians

Is it because they eat less salt? No. Kuna Indians eat as much, if not more salt, than people in the U.S.

Is it due to their genes? No. Kuna Indians who move away from the islands are just as likely to suffer from high blood pressure as anyone else!

So what makes these folks practically "immune" to hypertension -- and lets them enjoy much lower death rates from heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, and cancer?

Hot Cocoa

Harvard researchers were stunned to discover it's because they drink about 5 cups of cocoa each day. That's right, cocoa!

Studies show the flavonols in cocoa stimulate your body's production of nitric oxide -- boosting blood flow to your heart, brain, and other organs. In fact, one study found cocoa thins your blood just as well as low-dose aspirin!

But that's not all. A Harvard Medical School professor claims cocoa can also treat blocked arteries, congestive heart failure, stroke, dementia, even impotence!

Foods rich in cocoa, such as dark chocolate, also appear to improve circulation and reduce the risks of heart attacks, but drinking tea may not, an analysis of several studies suggests.

Polyphenols or flavonoids, chemicals found in cocoa and tea, are thought to lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Dirk Taubert and colleagues at the University Hospital of Cologne, Germany, conducted a meta-analysis of ten previously published trials, five of cocoa’s effects on blood pressure and five involving tea.

The studies were either randomised trials, in which some participants were assigned randomly to drink cocoa or tea and some to control groups, or used a crossover design, in which participants’ blood pressure was assessed before and after consuming cocoa products or tea.

The findings are published to-day in the American Medical Association’s Archives of Internal Medicine.

The five cocoa studies involved a total 173 participants, including 87 assigned to consume cocoa and 86 controls, 34 percent of whom had hypertension (high blood pressure).

Four of the five trials reported a reduction in both systolic (the top number, when the heart contracts) and diastolic (the bottom number, when the heart relaxes) blood pressure, when the participants were monitored over a median period of two weeks.

Compared with those who were not consuming cocoa, systolic blood pressure was an average of 4.7 millimetres of mercury lower and diastolic blood pressure was an average of 2.8 millimetres of mercury lower. The effects are comparable with those achieved with a single course of blood pressure medications such as beta blockers, the authors note.

“At the population level, a reduction of 4 to 5 millimetres of mercury in systolic blood pressure and 2 to 3 millimetres of mercury in diastolic blood pressure would be expected substantially to reduce the risk of stroke (by about 20 per cent), coronary heart disease (by 10 per cent) and all-cause mortality (by 8 per cent),” they write.

Julie O’Sullivan, of the British Heart Foundation, said: “We should remember that chocolate is far more often part of the problem for heart health than the solution. Eating five portions of fruit and veg a day is a far better way to get the heart protective antioxidants without having to worry about the fats and sugars that go into cocoa products such as chocolate.”

Food of the gods

–– The cacao tree was first cultivated in 250-900 AD by the ancient Mayan civilisation in what is now Mexico and Central America
–– The Maya offered the beans to their Gods and used them as currency and for medicinal purposes
–– Spanish chroniclers of the conquest of Mexico by Hernán Cortés relate that Montezuma II, emperor of the Aztecs, drank at least 50 goblets of chocolatedaily
–– Chocolate was introduced to Europe by the Spaniards and had become a popular drink by the mid1500s
–– Chocolate was introduced to England in about 1652. Samuel Pepys’s diary records entries relating to “jocolatte” as early as the 1660s
–– The cacao plant was given its botanical name by the Swedish natural scientist Carl von Linné (1707-78), who called it Theobroma cacao, meaning “food of the gods”
–– More than three million tons of cocoa is now grown each year

Additional References

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/11/061116121349.htm
Study Helps Explain Heart Benefits From Daily -- But Small -- Dose Of Chocolate      ScienceDaily (Nov. 16, 2006)

http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/abstract/298/1/49
Effects of Low Habitual Cocoa Intake on Blood Pressure 
and Bioactive Nitric Oxide A Randomized Controlled Trial
Dirk Taubert, MD, PhD; Renate Roesen, PhD; Clara Lehmann, MD; 
Norma Jung, MD; Edgar Schömig, MD          JAMA. 2007;298:49-60.

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