Cocoa products such as dark chocolate and cocoa-containing beverages can lower blood pressure, a recent meta-analysis confirms.

Steffen Desch, MD, of the University of Leipzig-Heart Center in Leipzig, German, and colleagues analyzed data from 10 randomized controlled trials that included a total of 297 subjects. The study populations were either healthy adults with normal blood pressure or patients with prehypertension or stage 1 hypertension. Treatment duration ranged from two to 18 weeks.

Across all trials, consumption of cocoa products was associated with a mean 4.5 mm Hg decrease in systolic pressure and a mean 2.5 mm Hg decrease in diastolic pressure, the researchers reported in the American Journal of Hypertension (2010;23:97-103).

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The new meta-analysis builds on epidemiologic evidence showing an antihypertensive effect of cocoa-containing food. For example, in a study of 470 elderly men in The Netherlands, those in the highest tertile of cocoa intake had mean systolic and diastolic pressures that were 3.7 and 2.1 mm Hg lower, respectively, compared with men in the lowest tertile, according to a report in Archives of Internal Medicine (2006;166:411-417). They also had significantly decreased 15-year cardiovascular and all-cause mortality.