Enjoying a hot cup of cocoa during the winter is a tradition, but the ingredient may also benefit your health. Can cocoa help with hypertension? Find out.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 116 million U.S. adults have high blood pressure. “If uncontrolled, it can lead to strokes, heart attacks, and kidney damage among other complications,” says Dr. Michael Goyfman, chief of cardiology and director of echocardiography at Long Island Jewish Forest Hills hospital in Queens, New York, told Healthline.

However, a new study appearing in Frontiers in Nutrition suggests that consuming flavanol-rich cocoa may help lower blood pressure and even reduce arterial stiffness.

Cocoa and Blood Pressure

Can Cocoa Help With Hypertension?Researchers at the University of Surrey examined the relationship between cocoa flavanols and blood pressure reduction. Over the course of several days, participants were given cocoa flavanol capsules, placebo capsules, an upper arm blood pressure monitor, and a finger clip to measure pulse wave velocity (PWV) for measuring arterial stiffness.

“High blood pressure and arterial stiffness increase a person’s risk of heart disease and strokes, so it is crucial that we investigate innovative ways to treat such conditions,” says Christian Heiss, professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Surrey.

Study Results

According to the findings, consuming the flavanol capsules reduced systolic blood pressure by about 1.4 mm Hg over 12 hours. However, blood pressure and arterial stiffness were only reduced in participants with high blood pressure and PWV. There was no effect in participants who had low blood pressure in the morning.

In a press release, the researchers stated that the study “reduces concerns that cocoa as a treatment for raised blood pressure could pose health risks by decreasing blood pressure when it is not raised.” However, the study does have its limitations.

Limitations and Considerations

“Researchers did not try this substance over a long period of time and in a clinically relevant situation,” explains Dr. Mehrdad Rezaee, a cardiologist at O’Connor Hospital in San Jose, California, who was not involved in the study. “So currently this remains a hypothesis that was addressed under a very controlled environment.”

Dr. Jill Grounds, a cardiologist with Memorial Hermann Medical Group, explains that the effects of the study were not clinically significant. “Most antihypertensive medications reduce systolic blood pressure by at least 10-15 mm Hg,” says Grounds.

Is Cocoa the Best Choice?

Buy the Best L-arginine Supplement L-arginine Plus“This small study of healthy volunteers demonstrated a minimal reduction in blood pressure in the hours after ingestion of 862 mg of cocoa flavanol,” says Dr. Eric Stahl, a diagnostic cardiology and prevention expert at Staten Island University Hospital. “While it is interesting to think about the potential physiologic effects of cocoa on blood pressure, more research is needed before we can include it in treatment for hypertension.”

For now, the best thing you can do to lower your blood pressure is to eat a healthy diet like the DASH or Mediterranean diet. You can also give your health an extra boost by exercising regularly and taking supplements like L-arginine Plus. Its ingredients promote circulation, blood pressure, cholesterol, and more. Give your health the support it needs now by practicing healthy habits and taking L-arginine Plus.