Drinking cocoa can save your life? Scientists revealed unexpected benefits of the cosy beverage

Cocoa is delicious, warming and cosy, but it can also be healthy. Scientists at the University of Birmingham found that drinking cocoa can actually benefit you, despite its desert-like character. Researchers found that consumption of cocoa could protect people from mental stress-induced cardiovascular events – it might be life saving.

Cocoa is rich with flavanols – molecules that are known to be beneficial for blood vessels and cardiovascular health in general. Image credit: Tammy via Wikimedia (CC BY 2.0)

Our lives are full of stress and sometimes it can be overwhelming. As you may know, stress is not good for you at all. It can damage blood vessels, which can eventually lead to stroke, heart disease and thrombosis. But you know what can help you avoid those health issues? Flavanols.

Mental stress, which can be caused by anything from troubles at work to bad global news, damages the endothelium. Normally it lines the heart and blood vessels, improves their elasticity and helps reduce the risk of peripheral vascular disease, stroke, heart disease, diabetes, kidney failure, tumour growth, thrombosis, and severe viral infectious diseases. Mental stress can be damaging, because it impairs the endothelium lining, which effectively removes that natural protection.

Researchers conducted a randomized study, in which healthy men drank a high-flavanol cocoa beverage 90 minutes before completing an eight-minute mental stress task. Scientists measured participants’ blood flow and cardiovascular activity at rest, during stress and up to 90 min post stress. They found that blood vessels were functioning better when participants had been drinking cocoa. Blood vessel function was less impaired when the participants drank high-flavanol cocoa, because endothelial function was better. Furthermore, flavanols improved blood flow during stress.

Of course, a lot of people are making their cocoa very sweet, which is not ideal. However, you can get flavanols from other sources as well – fruits and vegetables are filled with them. Dr. Catarina Rendeiro, lead author of the study, said: “Our findings are significant for everyday diet, given that the daily dosage administered could be achieved by consuming a variety of foods rich in flavanols – particularly apples, black grapes, blackberries, cherries, raspberries, pears, pulses, green tea and unprocessed cocoa. This has important implications for measures to protect the blood vessels of those individuals who are more vulnerable to the effects of mental stress”

Sometimes it is impossible to avoid stress. However, you can definitely manage it and the effects it has on your health. Make sure to stay well-rested, drink plenty of water and improve your diet. Cocoa is not a bad choice – it is calming and can protect your cardiovascular health.


Source: University of Birmingham