Your choice: chocolate bar vs lycopene capsule for your BP

August 23, 2010 by  

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What about a daily dose of chocolate for your hypertension? Sounds like a dream, right?

When I was growing up in a third world country, chocolates were only available as treats for special occasions such as Christmas and birthdays. As a child, I always dreamed of one day eating as much chocolate as I could. Decades later, I found myself living in a country famous for its chocolates – Belgium – and now in another country equally as famous for the same reason – Switzerland. Theoretically, I can now have all the chocolates I want. But you know what? Chocolate lost its appeal – not to mention mystic – as soon as I started seeing it every day.

In recent years, chocolate has reinvented itself from a high-sugar, high-fat, and high-calorie junk food to a healthy gourmet snack. The junk food versions are still around but there are now the dark (70% cacao or more) low-sugar types that even those with diabetes can enjoy. Studies have shown dark chocolate is beneficial to cardiovascular health especially in lowering blood pressure.

So you’d think it is a dream come true for those with hypertension to be prescribed with a daily portion of chocolate to keep their blood pressure under control. Well, an Australian study reported some surprising results. The study participants with prephypertension were assigned to take either a lycopene-rich tomato extract capsule or 50 g (about half a bar) of dark chocolate each day for hypertension for 12 weeks. Surprisingly enough, half of those assigned to eat chocolate found the treatment not so palatable. All participants found it easier to take the lycopene capsule each day than eat dark chocolate.

The authors speculate as to the reasons why and author Dr. Karin Ried of the University of Adelaide states:

there is a difference between “consuming a food item voluntarily or having to eat it on a daily basis for 12 weeks.”

…[the chocolate group] reported strong taste and concerns about fat/sugar content as reasons for unacceptability of chocolate as a long-term treatment option.”

The study results indicate a lack of preference for chocolate. On the other hand, is it really the chocolate itself that is not acceptable or is it the mode of delivery? What if the tomato extract were to be taken fresh each day (and not in a capsule)? Would the participants still prefer tomato juice to chocolate?

People always try to take the easy way and swallowing multivitamin pills and supplements each day are usually preferable to shopping, preparing and eating fresh produce. It is called convenience.

I am not saying that chocolate is the answer to your blood pressure problems. Despite the research studies on this topic, experts think that it is “too soon yet to advocate chocolate as a treatment for high BP.”

According to Dr Brent M Egan (Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston:

“Clearly more research is needed; we don’t think the state of the art is there yet. The number of studies is relatively small, few people have been studied, and the number of products that have been investigated is also too small to be making general health recommendations for the world.”

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.

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