Can cocoa products reduce blood pressure or heart disease?

CocoaVia and Cirku are new supplements used for high blood pressure and cardiovascular health according to the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database (NMCD). These products are flavored powders that can be added to a beverage. Each packet contains a cocoa extract providing 350 mg of cocoa flavanols. Those selling the supplements say they may reduce heart disease, but do they?

According to NMDC, “Research on cocoa flavanols for heart disease is promising. Some research shows that consuming 213-500 mg/day of cocoa flavanols can decrease systolic blood pressure by about 5 mmHg and diastolic by about 3 mmHg. Increasing cocoa intake is also associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular and all-cause mortality.”

Here are more details from NMCD:

Cocoa flavanols are POSSIBLY EFFECTIVE for:

Hypertension. Several clinical studies show that consuming both dark and milk chocolate 46-105 grams/day, providing 213-500 mg of cocoa polyphenols, modestly lowers systolic blood pressure by 4.7 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure by 2.8 mmHg in normotensive and hypertensive people (1, 2).

A lower amount of dark chocolate, 6.3 grams daily providing 30 mg of polyphenols also decreases systolic blood pressure by 2.9 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure by 1.9 mmHg when consumed for 18 weeks by patients with prehypertension or mild hypertension (3).

There is INSUFFICIENT RELIABLE EVIDENCE to RATE cocoa flavanols for:

Cardiovascular disease. A population study suggests that healthy elderly men who consume a higher amount of cocoa from dietary sources have a lower average blood pressure compared to those consuming lower amounts and also have a lower risk of cardiovascular and all-cause mortality (4).

Hypercholesterolemia. Preliminary research shows that diets high in stearic acid from cocoa butter result in lower cholesterol levels compared to diets high in myristic acid from dairy butter in healthy men with normal cholesterol levels. However, a diet high in stearic acid from cocoa butter does not significantly lower cholesterol compared to baseline values in healthy men (5).

Isolated systolic hypertension. Preliminary evidence suggests that consuming 100 grams/day of cocoa polyphenol-rich dark chocolate might modestly reduce systolic and diastolic blood pressure in elderly patients with isolated systolic hypertension (6).

More evidence is needed to rate cocoa for these uses.

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