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New Study Suggests Special Cocoa may Lead to Sustained Improvement in Blood Vessel Function

Drinking a specially-made cocoa beverage daily may have the potential to reverse impairments in the functioning of blood vessels//, according to a first-of-its-kind study published in the Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology. The cocoa used in the study was rich in flavanols, naturally-occurring compounds abundant in freshly harvested cocoa prior to their destruction during the typical processing and manufacture of cocoa and chocolate products.

These results suggest this flavanol-rich cocoa could have important implications for cardiovascular health since reduced endothelial function is recognized as an early stage in blood vessel diseases such as atherosclerosis. As noted in the paper, the magnitude of the blood vessel benefits to study participants after consuming this special flavanol-rich cocoa drink for a week was comparable to long-term drug therapy with statins. Previous studies have demonstrated acute or short term improvements in endothelial or blood vessel function after consuming this flavanol-rich cocoa, but this is the first study to suggest that these benefits may build and be sustained over several days - even to the point of apparent reversal of impairments in blood vessel function. While this study is very promising, the researchers do indicate that larger trials are necessary to demonstrate the clinical relevance of these flavanol-rich foods.

To study the impact of both immediate and sustained consumption of this well-studied flavanol-rich cocoa, researchers in Germany fed the cocoa to a group of male smokers – a population known to have impaired blood vessel function. In the first part of the study, participants drank specially made cocoa beverages that contained different flavanol levels – ranging from 28 to 918 milligrams. At each level, the optimal effect occurred after two hours. The drink containing 179 milligrams of cocoa flavanols resulted in a 50 percent improvement increase in blood vessel function in study participa
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