I like chocolate. You know—good, high-quality dark chocolate. As a result, whenever I hear of a study that shows how good it is for us, I sit up and take notice and then I report the findings to you…after all, who doesn’t want another reason to eat chocolate? Swedish researchers from Linköping University have given us another reason to include responsible amounts in our diets—hypertension, or what most people call high blood pressure. A January 2011 article in the Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology published this study which investigated the impact of 72% cocoa chocolate on angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) and nitric oxide. ACE is the enzyme that converts angiotensin I into angiotensin II which is a potent vasoconstrictor. They tested it both in vitro and in vivo (meaning in a Petri dish and in people) and in both cases they found a significant inhibition of ACE. ACE inhibitor drugs are among the most commonly prescribed pharmaceuticals to decrease hypertension, but high blood pressure drugs can have some really troubling side effects like impotence, hair loss, heart attack, depression, angina (severe chest pain), back pain, bleeding in the stomach or intestines, bronchitis, changes in heart rhythm, constipation, diarrhea, dimmed vision, dizziness when first standing up, dry mouth or throat, dry cough, extremely high blood pressure, and others. Other than that, they’re great.
Does this study show that chocolate cures hypertension? No. Does it give us another reason to include a healthy amount in our diets? It does for me.
J Cardiovasc Pharmacol. 2011 Jan;57(1):44-50. Effects of cocoa extract and dark chocolate on angiotensin-converting enzyme and nitric oxide in human endothelial cells and healthy volunteers--a nutrigenomics perspective. Persson IA, Persson K, Hägg S, Andersson RG.
Division of Pharmacology, Department of Medical and Health Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences, Linko¨ping University, Linköping, Sweden