Cocoa flavanols against high blood pressure and stiffening of the arteries -

How flavanols affect blood pressure

Cocoa flavanols counteract increased blood pressure and arteriosclerosis. However, flavanols only lower blood pressure when it is high and there is no risk of lowering blood pressure too much.

A new study involving experts from the University of Surrey examined responses to cocoa flavanols in healthy people in daily life. The results can be found in the English-language journal Frontiers in Nutrition.

Effect of cocoa flavanols studied

Previous studies have shown that cocoa flavanols can reduce blood pressure and arterial stiffness to a similar extent as certain blood pressure medications. However, it's still unclear how effective flavanols are in everyday life for lowering blood pressure, the researchers report.

Therefore, the use of flavanols to lower blood pressure and arterial stiffness in subjects outside of a clinical setting has now been investigated. To this end, eleven healthy participants without high blood pressure alternately took six capsules of cocoa flavanols for four days and six capsules of placebo with brown sugar on the other four days over a period of eight consecutive days.

All participants were also given an arm blood pressure monitor and a finger clip to measure so-called pulse wave velocity, which measures how stiff the artery is, the team reports.

Experts have found that taking flavanols reduces arterial vascular stiffness and blood pressure. However, the effect was only apparent if blood pressure was elevated in the affected person.

This applied both to comparing between participants and to taking into account individuals with different blood pressure values ​​over the course of the day. For example, no effect was detectable if blood pressure was already low in the morning.

Additionally, the effects of flavanols were first observed eight hours after ingestion, the researchers report. This is likely due to the way gut bacteria metabolize cocoa flavanols.

Flavanols have a positive effect on the cardiovascular system

“The positive effects of cocoa flavanols on our cardiovascular system, in particular on blood vessel function and blood pressure, are undeniable,” study author Professor Christian Heiss points out in a press release.

It is often feared that antihypertensive tablets will lower blood pressure too much on certain days.
This danger apparently does not exist with flavanols. “What we found suggests that cocoa flavanols only lower blood pressure when it is high,” adds the doctor.

"High blood pressure and stiff arteries increase the risk of heart disease and stroke, so it's important that we explore innovative ways to treat these diseases," Professor Heiss continues. (as)

Author and source information

Show now

This text corresponds to the specifications of the specialized medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been verified by health professionals.


Mariam Bapir, Paola Campagnolo, Ana Rodriguez-Mateos, Simon S Skene, Christian Heiss: Assessing variability in vascular response to cocoa with personal devices: a series of randomized, double-blind, n-of-1 crossover trials; in: Frontiers in Nutrition (published 07/13/2022), Frontiers in NutritionUniversity of Surrey: Cocoa Demonstrated to Reduce Blood Pressure and Arterial Stiffness in First Real-World Study (published 07/26/ 2022), University of Surrey

Important note:
This article contains general advice only and should not be used for self-diagnosis or treatment. It cannot substitute a visit to the doctor.