Eating about 30 calories a day of dark chocolate was associated with a lowering of blood pressure, without weight gain or other adverse effects, according to a study in the July 4 issue of JAMA

Dirk Taubert, M.D., Ph.D., of University Hospital of Cologne, Germany, and colleagues assessed the effects of low regular amounts of cocoa on BP. The trial, conducted between January 2005 and December 2006, included 44 adults (age 56 through 73 years; 24 women, 20 men) with untreated upper-range prehypertension (BP 130/85 – 139/89) or stage 1 hypertension (BP 140/90 – 160/100). Participants were randomly assigned to receive for 18 weeks either 6.3 g (30 calories) per day of dark chocolate containing 30 mg polyphenols or matching polyphenol-free white chocolate

The researchers found that from baseline to 18 weeks, dark chocolate intake reduced average systolic BP by -2.9 (1.6) mm Hg and diastolic BP by -1.9 (1.0) mm Hg without changes in body weight, plasma levels of lipids or glucose. Hypertension prevalence declined from 86 percent to 68 percent. Systolic and diastolic BP remained unchanged throughout the treatment period among those in the white chocolate group. Dark chocolate consumption resulted in the short-term appearance of cocoa phenols in plasma and increased vasodilatory S-nitrosoglutathione. There was no change in plasma biomarkers in the white chocolate group.