Cocoa can bring down blood pressure (BP) by inhibiting an enzyme that pushes it upwards – hence protecting the heart.
In fact, it was as effective as BP drugs designed for the same purpose, according to a new study by scientists from Linkoping University in Sweden.
Ingrid Persson, who led the study, said: “We have previously shown that green tea inhibits the enzyme ACE, which is involved in the body’s fluid balance and BP.”
“Now we wanted to study the effect of cocoa, since the active substances catechins and procyanidines are related,” the Daily Mail quoted him as saying.
Catechins and procyanidines are antioxidants that can reduce the damage oxygen can do to cells.
The team recruited a group of healthy non-smoking volunteers for the study. Two days before the study, they were not allowed to eat chocolate or anything containing similar compounds, including many berries, nor could they drink coffee, tea, or wine.
Everyone in the group gave a blood sample both before and after eating 75 grams of unsweetened chocolate with a cocoa content of 72 percent.
Scientists found ACE enzyme activity was reduced by 18 percent, three hours after the cocoa dose. This is comparable to the effect of drugs that inhibit ACE and are used as a first-choice treatment for high BP.