Researchers at the Nippon Sport Science University in Japan investigated the effects of regular cocoa drink intake of 26 postmenopausal women, and discovered they had less arterial stiffness after 12 weeks.
“These findings provide additional evidence that regular ingestion of cocoa helps to improve cardiovascular health among postmenopausal women,” they wrote in the journal Clinical Interventions of Aging.
Previous studies suggested that the menopause was a risk factor for increased arterial stiffness meaning that postmenopausal women have a higher chance of acquiring cardiovascular disease (CVD).
“Acute and habitual intake of flavanol-enriched cocoa and/or dark chocolate was reported to increase flow-mediated vasodilator response, thereby effectively lowering blood pressure (BP),” researchers said.
“In addition, associations have been reported between habitual cocoa and/or dark-chocolate intake and reduced BP, antioxidant effects, improved blood-lipid profiles, and reduced endothelin (ET)-1 vasoconstrictor activity.”
Daily cocoa drink
For the study, 26 postmenopausal women were divided into two groups. The first group drank a flavanol-rich cocoa mixture (17g powder) everyday for 12 weeks. The second group took twice the amount every other day for 12 weeks as well.
The women were instructed to continue with their regular diet and exercise, but not to take tea or other flavanol-rich foods during the cocoa supplementation.
“Carotid–femoral pulse-wave velocity (cfPWV) and femoral–ankle pulse-wave velocity (faPWV) were measured in both groups at baseline and again at the end of the 12-week study period,” the study said.
“Compared to baseline, both pulse-wave velocities had significantly decreased after the 12-week study period in both groups.”
Arterial stiffness can be determined by measuring the increased aortic pulse wave energy (PWV) from a heart contraction. When the heart contracts it generates a pulse or energy wave that travels through the circulatory system.
“The key finding of this study was that central and peripheral arterial stiffness decreased significantly in both groups after cocoa intake,” the researchers said.
“Since the same dose of cocoa was ingested by each group, although at a different frequency, this indicates that intake frequency does not affect the cocoa-induced changes in arterial stiffness.”
“Daily consumption of cocoa and/or dark chocolate has a beneficial effect in the prevention of cardiovascular events,” the study concluded.
Source: Clinical Interventions in Aging
“Habitual cocoa intake reduces arterial stiffness in postmenopausal women regardless of intake frequency: a randomized parallel-group study”
Authors: Takanobu Okamoto, Ryota Kobayashi et al.