Monday, June 28, 2010

Chocolate could help treat high blood pressure

Another tiny effect paraded as if it meant something

Just a chunk of chocolate a day could have the same effect on high blood pressure as half an hour of exercise, new research suggests. For those suffering from high blood pressure the effect of chocolate was so dramatic it could reduce their chances of having a heart attack or stroke by 20 per cent over five years.

Chocolate – and especially dark chocolate – contains chemicals known as flavanols which naturally open up blood vessels in the body. That means blood flows more easily and the pressure drops.

"You don't always need medication to reduce blood pressure," said Dr Karin Ried, at Adelaide University who carried out the research. "This shows that there are some foods that can help."

An estimated 15 million people in Britain suffer from high blood pressure, also known as hypertension – around half of them undiagnosed. About one in 10 sufferers cannot control the condition with medication or cannot tolerate the drugs, leaving them at greater risk. Hundreds of thousands face a lifetime on medication to reduce the risk of suffering heart disease, strokes or kidney failure.

For the latest research, Dr Ried and her team combined the results of 15 other studies looking at chocolate and cocoa between 1955 and 2009 covering hundreds of people. They found that for people with hypertension, eating chocolate could reduce the blood pressure by up to five per cent. For those with normal pressure it had no effect. "This is a significant finding," said Dr Ried. [Really??] "We’ve found that consumption can significantly, albeit modestly, reduce blood pressure for people with high blood pressure but not for people with normal blood pressure”.

She said it will take more research to see what is the optimal amount of chocolate that was needed to make the most difference. She said the studies varied from just one chunk (6g) to a whole bar (100g) a day. The research was published in the journal BMC Medicine.

People with high blood pressure are seen to have it consistently higher than 140mm Hg systolic or 90mm Hg diastolic. Normal is 90/60. The results showed that chocolate would make it drop 5mm in systolic pressure which is comparable to the known effects of 30 daily minutes of moderate physical activity such as brisk walking or swimming.

Chocolate has been found to have health giving benefits in the past. Research published earlier this year showed that people who eat just one bar a week are 22 per cent less likely to suffer a stroke. However the health giving benefits have to be weighed against its contribution to obesity.


A nickel-plated moron

Anger grew today after the deputy editor of a leading British parenting magazine wrote an article describing breastfeeding as "creepy", saying she wanted to maintain the sexuality of her "fun bags".

In Kathryn Blundell's article for Mother & Baby, entitled I formula fed. So what?, she explains how she never breastfed because "I wanted my body back. (And some wine) ... I also wanted to give my boobs at least a chance to stay on my chest rather than dangling around my stomach."

She continues with, "They're part of my sexuality, too - not just breasts, but fun bags. And when you have that attitude (and I admit I made no attempt to change it), seeing your teeny, tiny, innocent baby latching on where only a lover has been before feels, well, a little creepy."

The UK Department of Health (DoH) recommends breastfeeding for six months and launched a controversial "Breast is Best" ad campaign to convince mothers to put down the bottles. According to the DoH, only one in 100 British mums actually does breastfeed for that long.

Of these "quitters", Blundell says, "I often wonder whether many of these women, like me, just couldn't be fagged (did not want to make the effort) or felt like getting tipsy once in a while."

The fallout from the article ranges from breastfeeding group Lactivist condemning Blundell's "generally spreading misinformation" to a Facebook group with 500 members demanding an apology.

"As a formula-feeding mum who was unable to breastfeed, I am left wondering whether, thanks to this piece, people who see me giving my baby a bottle may assume that I am doing so because I could not be fagged to breastfeed/found the idea 'creepy'," wrote one member of the Facebook group.

But Mother & Baby Editor Miranda Levy stands by her deputy's piece, telling the UK's Guardian newspaper: "We have made readers feel 'normal' and less of a 'failure' for not managing to breastfeed - a situation which is incredibly common. The way you feed your baby is not a moral issue, and at Mother & Baby we seek to support all new parents in what is a glorious, but often difficult and emotional, time."


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I eat dark chocolate all the time and it does nothing for my blood pressure.

Not having a few beers or shots the day before seeing the Doc, does!