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Dark Chocolate And Cocoa Powder May Help Lower Blood Pressure

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Here's even more evidence that chocolate could be good for the heart.

A new review of research, published in the Cochrane Library, suggests that consuming dark chocolate or cocoa powder every day is linked with slightly lowered blood pressure.

"Although we don't yet have evidence for any sustained decrease in blood pressure, the small reduction we saw over the short term might complement other treatment options and might contribute to reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease," study researcher Karin Ried, of the National Institute of Integrative Medicine in Australia, said in a statement.

The researchers conducted their meta-analysis of20 different trials that included 856 people. Trials lasted for different lengths, from two weeks to eight weeks to even 18 weeks, and included eating anywhere from 30 to 1,080 milligrams of flavanols (what is found in anywhere from 3 to 100 grams of chocolate) every day.

The researchers found that consuming flavanol-containing chocolate or cocoa powder was linked with, on average, a decreased blood pressure of 2 to 3 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg).

Flavanols are a kind of antioxidant compound -- also found in foods like chocolate, cranberries, tea and red wine -- that are largely responsible for chocolate's heart benefits, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

The researchers found that in trials comparing consumption of flavanol-containing chocolate or cocoa powder compared with foods that had no flavanol at all, the blood pressure-lowering effect was even greater, dropping by an average of 3 to 4 mm Hg.

However, they didn't observe any big drops in blood pressure in trials comparing consumption of high flavanol-containing cocoa powder or chocolate with low flavanol-containing cocoa powder or chocolate, which they said might be because even low-flavanol foods could still provide some sort of blood pressure benefit.

Earlier this year, a study in the British Medical Journal showed that dark chocolate consumption is linked with a decreased risk of heart attack and stroke in some people at risk for the conditions, Reuters reported. The study included more than 2,000 people with metabolic syndrome who ate dark chocolate every day for a decade.

One note before you pig out: Not all chocolate products are alike -- some are loaded with fat and calories, and the health benefits described in studies are limited mainly to dark chocolate and cocoa powder. So enjoy responsibly!

For more health benefits of chocolate, click through the slideshow:

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