Posted on Mar 18, 2010, 6 a.m.
Australian researchers find that a beverage rich in cocoa flavanols increases blood flow to muscles, and may thereby alleviate exercise-related strains on the heart.
A large and steadily growing set of studies supports the cardiovascular benefits of consuming cocoa flavanols. Narelle M. Berry, from the University of South Australia (Adelaide, Australia), and colleagues studied 21 overweight men and women, ages 54 to 59 years, BMI 31 to 36 kg/m2, each of whom was assigned to consume single servings of either a high-flavanol (701 mg) or a low-flavanol (22 mg) cocoa beverage. Two hours after cocoa consumption, followed by 10 minutes of cycling at 75% of age-predicted maximum heart rate, the team measured endothelium-dependent flow-mediated dilatation (FMD), a parameter that can modify blood pressure responsiveness to exercise. In those subjects who consumed the high-flavanol beverage, blood pressure was 14% lower, as compared to those who consumed the low flavanol drink. The researchers conclude that: “By facilitating vasodilation and attenuating exercise-induced increases in [blood pressure], cocoa flavanols may decrease cardiovascular risk and enhance the cardiovascular benefits of moderate intensity exercise in at-risk individuals.”`
Narelle M. Berry, Kade Davison, Alison M. Coates, Jonathan D. Buckley, Peter R. C. Howe. “Impact of cocoa flavanol consumption on blood pressure responsiveness to exercise.” British Journal of Nutrition, 19 January 2010; doi: 10.1017/S0007114509993382.