Dr Michael Mosley shares hot chocolate may lower blood pressure as you age

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Dr Michael Mosley discussed the different health benefits of chocolate on his BBC Radio 4 podcast. The doctor explained that drinking hot chocolate can be great for your blood pressure as you get older. Here’s how to make sure you get the right cocoa and the science behind how it helps.

“We would all love quick, easy ways to improve our health, but we’re bombarded with often conflicting advice,” said the Just One Thing host.

He said if there is one thing you need to do to improve your health, it should be “awesome” dark chocolate to help your heart.

The doctor admits to having a sweet tooth, so he normally doesn’t have sugary treats at home to keep him from indulging in them.

But for the podcast, he made a healthy exception for dark chocolate: “I allow myself one thing that should not only satisfy my cravings, but may even lower my blood pressure, improve my cardiovascular health, and maybe even boost my blood pressure. brain.

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What is the evidence behind the consumption of hot chocolate?

Dr Mosley said: “Part of the enthusiasm for dark chocolate came from a discovery related to the Guna people, who live off the coast of Panama.

“Population studies have shown that, unlike most of us, our blood pressure does not increase with age. One theory is that this is because the Guna drink a lot of unsweetened cocoa, up to five cups a day.

The doctor said “dark stuff” is the healthy option when it comes to chocolate because of its high content of flavonoids.

He nibbled on an 85% dark chocolate, saying, “I can really smell this high concentration of cocoa full of flavonoids, a nutrient found in certain plants that may explain why eating dark chocolate is so much healthier.”

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Dr Mosley then spoke with Professor Aedin Cassidy, Director of Interdisciplinary Research at Queen’s University Belfast, about the scientific evidence linked to flavonoids in cocoa.

“The key building block in chocolate seems to be these flavonoid compounds called flavonols which are particularly present in cocoa,” Cassidy explained.

“There have been over 42 trials specifically on cocoa flavonols, where they have consistently shown benefits in lowering blood pressure, improving blood flow, improving insulin and improving blood levels. cholesterol. “

The podcast host explained the “golden rule” when it comes to choosing the right chocolate: “The darker the chocolate, the more bitter the chocolate, the higher the levels of these plant compounds.”

This means that you should opt for products with a high percentage of cocoa. The Queen’s University professor suggested that around 40 to 50 percent should be enough.

But if you can handle a higher cocoa content, go for the really dark product, as evidence suggests it’s particularly high in flavonoids.

If you need more conviction about the health benefits of this drink, Dr Mosley spoke about another study.

“A recent study from Italy, where 90 elderly people were asked to consume a special cocoa drink rich in flavonoids, found improvements in their blood pressure, insulin resistance and cognition,” a- he declared.

How do you get the right amount of flavonols?

The Guna drank about five cups of cocoa per day. Professor Cassidy said epidemiological data suggests that three to five times a week or a few squares a day should be the optimal amount.

In case you don’t fancy hot chocolate, know that cocoa powder isn’t the only thing rich in flavonols.

Apples, red wine and tea also do the trick according to Just One Thing’s visiting professor.

“Compared to a 50 gram bar of chocolate, you would get the same number of flavonols in three apples, a tablespoon of cocoa powder, three small glasses of red wine, or a large cup of tea,” Cassidy added.

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