Cocoa Relaxer

Feeling stressed? Drink some cocoa!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Ten minutes ‘til my meeting and traffic’s at a crawl! Guess what? Blood flow can be choked in a similar way when you feel stress affecting your heart! Is there a chocolate flavored solution?

After all, cocoa contains special molecules called flavanols which are known to benefit heart health!

Rosalind Baynham from the University of Birmingham in the UK and colleagues recruited thirty volunteers. First, they measured the subjects’ forearm blood flow and artery width. Next, the participants drank either high-flavanol or low-flavanol cocoa beverages. 

Then came the hard part! The volunteers had to continuously do lightning-quick mental math for eight minutes! Talk about a stressor! 

After the math, their blood flow and arteries were monitored again.  

Results? High-flavanol cocoa IMPROVED blood flow during stress! The subjects’ arm arteries widened – like adding lanes to a freeway. The researchers think this suggests that cocoa-flavanols could help open the way to our hearts during stress! 

No surprise! Chocolate has ALWAYS been the way to my heart – stressed or not!

Reference: Baynham, R., Veldhuijzen Van Zanten, J. J., Johns, P. W., Pham, Q. S., & Rendeiro, C. (2021). Cocoa Flavanols Improve Vascular Responses to Acute Mental Stress in Young Healthy Adults. Nutrients, 13(4), 1103.