Cocoa, blood pressure, and vascular function

Curr Hypertens Rep. 2012 Aug;14(4):279-84. doi: 10.1007/s11906-012-0281-8.


The consumption of a high amount of fruits and vegetables was found to be associated with a lower risk of coronary heart disease and stroke. Epidemiologically, a similar relationship has been found with cocoa, a naturally polyphenol-rich food. Obviously, double blind randomized studies are difficult to perform with cocoa and chocolate, respectively. However, intervention studies strongly suggest that cocoa has several beneficial effects on cardiovascular health, including the lowering of blood pressure, the improvement of vascular function and glucose metabolism, and the reduction of platelet aggregation and adhesion. Several potential mechanisms through which cocoa might exert its positive effects have been proposed, among them activation of nitric oxide synthase, increased bioavailability of nitric oxide as well as antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties. It is the aim of this review to summarize the findings of cocoa and chocolate on blood pressure and vascular function.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antioxidants / pharmacology
  • Blood Pressure / drug effects*
  • Cacao*
  • Cardiovascular System / drug effects*
  • Coronary Artery Disease / prevention & control
  • Endothelium, Vascular / drug effects*
  • Flavonoids / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Nitric Oxide
  • Polyphenols / pharmacology
  • Stroke / prevention & control


  • Antioxidants
  • Flavonoids
  • Polyphenols
  • Nitric Oxide