A meta-analysis on 20 studies bodes well for cocoa flavanol intake.
A Cochrane Review on cocoa flavanols has concluded that high consumption of these compounds can significantly reduce blood pressure.
Researchers from the University of Adelaide and the National Institute of Integrative Medicine in Melbourne conducted a meta-analysis on 20 clinical trials involving over 800 adults (with or without hypertension) who consumed cocoa flavanols or a control for 2 to 18 weeks. Changes in systolic and diastolic blood pressure were investigated in each study.
In compiling all of the data, statistically significant reductions were observed with flavanol-rich cocoa consumption for both diastolic (-2.2 mm Hg) and systolic blood pressure (-2.8 mm Hg) compared to consumption of zero flavanols.
But how high of a dose is needed for efficacy?
The researchers couldn’t reach a consensus on how many flavanols might cause blood pressure changes because the studies used a wide range of flavanols (from 30 mg to 1080 mg daily). The average amount used was 545.5 mg of flavanols daily.
While a meta-analysis on 20 studies provides a strong case for cocoa-rich foods in overall nutrition, the researchers noted that more work is needed to iron out a definitive opinion of how exactly cocoa flavanols can support healthy blood pressure for the general population:
More trials in which the intake of low flavanol dosages are compared with flavanol-free controls are required to test whether low dosages are effective in reducing blood pressure. In addition, longer term trials are needed to elucidate whether regular consumption of flavanol-rich cocoa products has a beneficial effect on blood pressure and cardiovascular health over time, and whether there are any potential adverse effects of long-term ingestion of cocoa products on a daily basis.