It’s rare that the medical research community finds an indulgence that might actually be good for you.
New research suggests that a cup of cocoa each day can protect the cardiovascular system from the debilitating effects of stress.
The body reacts physically to emotional stress as well as physical threats. Typical reactions include an increase in heart rate (number of heartbeats per minute), increase in blood pressure, and dilation of arteries to handle the increase in blood flow.
If there are any latent weaknesses in the cardiovascular system, stress events can trigger major problems, including heart attack and stroke. A break in an artery wall in the wrong place in the body can be fatal. Any major event while driving can have fatal results.
Endothelial cells line the walls of blood vessels. Breakdown in endothelial cell function is often a precursor of a variety of heart and vascular diseases.
Flavanols are compounds found in some foods — vegetables, green tea, and cocoa — that protect endothelial cell function and reduce blood pressure. And that brings us to the point of this short tale.
Cocoa has been shown in newly published research to be valuable in protecting the cardiovascular system from the effects of stress. In an experimental design, a group of males under age 45 consumed cocoa with flavenol or a placebo before undertaking a test. Researchers at the University of Birmingham (UK) measured endothelial cell function and blood pressure before and an intervals after the test. All subjects showed some response to the stressor event (the test), but those consuming the cocoa had better blood flow and less impact on endothelial cell fuction both during and after the test.
The research hasn’t been repeated among females or persons in other age groups, but there is no obvious reason to expect different results.
So, if you want to protect your body from the effects of stress — or perhaps simply perform better in a stressful situation — drink cocoa first!
And who lives a life without stress, anyway?