Meta-analysis confirms blood pressure lowering benefit for dark chocolate
The results of a meta-analysis published online on June 28, 2010 in the journal BMC Medicine found a blood pressure-reducing effect for dark chocolate consumption in individuals with hypertension and prehypertension.
For their review, Dr Karen Ried and her associates at the University of Adelaide in Australia selected 15 trial arms of 13 studies which evaluated the effects on blood pressure of compounds in chocolate known as flavanols. "Flavanols have been shown to increase the formation of endothelial nitric oxide, which promotes vasodilation and consequently may lower blood pressure," Dr Ried explained. "There have, however, been conflicting results as to the real-life effects of eating chocolate."
Pooled analysis of all trials found that participants who received daily cocoa or chocolate for at least two weeks experienced a significant reduction in blood pressure compared with those who received a placebo. Further analysis determined that blood pressure was only lowered in those with hypertension or prehypertension, while those with normal blood pressure did not experience a significant reduction. "These findings are in line with meta-analyses of other nutritional supplements on blood pressure, which similarly found that blood pressure was significantly reduced in hypertensive subgroups but not in the normotensive subgroups," the authors write.
"The relatively modest but significant blood pressure-lowering effect of cocoa in the hypertensive subgroup is clinically relevant: a decline of 5 mmHg in systolic blood pressure may reduce the risk of a cardiovascular event by about 20% over 5 years," they conclude. "Furthermore, the effect of cocoa in a hypertensive population is comparable to other lifestyle modifications, such as moderate physical activity (30 minutes/day) [which] may reduce systolic blood pressure by 4-9 mmHg."
High blood pressure is dangerous in part because it rarely causes symptoms at first but is a risk factor for many other conditions. According to data gathered as part of the Framingham Heart Study, people who have high blood pressure are at significantly increased risk of developing dangerous conditions related to high blood pressure. In this study, for every 10 mm Hg increase in systolic pressure, there was a doubling of the risk of having a heart attack or stroke or of having kidney failure (Kannel WB 2003; Klag MJ et al 2003; Wolf PA 2003).
Pomegranates are fast becoming known as one of the healthiest foods we can eat, largely because of their beneficial effects on cardiovascular health (Aviram M et al 2001). While many people drink pomegranate juice, pomegranate extract may hold even greater benefits.
The benefit of supplementing with pomegranate extract (rather than drinking the juice or eating the fruit) is that the extract, unlike the juice, contains virtually no sugar or calories, and requires no refrigeration to maintain optimal quality. Interestingly, commercial pomegranate juice and whole fruit extracts contain beneficial phytonutrients that are not obtained from eating the pomegranate fruit itself (Gil MI et al 2000). In particular, punicalagins, the primary antioxidant found in pomegranates, are concentrated in the husk and in the juice of the whole fruit (Gil MI et al 2000).
While some pomegranate products are standardized to contain high levels of ellagic acid (an antioxidant and phytonutrient that has anticancer potential), focusing on ellagic acid alone is unlikely to provide optimal synergy among the phytonutrients found within pomegranates (Lansky EP 2006). Emerging research suggests that products standardized in punicalagins confer the greatest benefit by providing the highest levels of pomegranate antioxidants.
Scientists are now studying pomegranate extract to uncover the many advantages it may have for human health. Pomegranates contain an array of beneficial phytonutrients such as phenolic compounds and tannins, including punicalagins, which are unique to pomegranates. Several compounds in pomegranates are potent antioxidants and ACE inhibitors (Aviram M et al 2001). Researchers have determined that oxidative stress can disrupt the balance of vasoconstricting and vasodilating biochemicals in the endothelium, contributing to high blood pressure and endothelial dysfunction. By quenching oxidative stress, antioxidants may help prevent vasoconstriction, lower blood pressure, and promote healthy endothelial function (Kitiyakara C et al 1998). Scientists believe that pomegranates, a potent source of antioxidants, may promote healthy blood pressure levels by enhancing the activity and preventing the degradation of an important vasodilating agent. These benefits may also lead to improvements in endothelial function (Ignarro LJ et al 2006).
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Milk thistle extract has long been valued for its role in ensuring healthy liver function, and it is also a powerful antioxidant. This extract consists of silibinin and other similar compounds. Until recently, researchers believed silibinin was the most biologically active ingredient in milk thistle extract. Highly advanced extraction technology has now enabled scientists to isolate silymarin constituents and test their efficacy against various cell lines. Among the compounds tested, a silymarin constituent called isosilybin B proved to be the most efficient in maintaining healthy cell division.
Mega Silymarin with Isosilybin B is the first milk thistle extract to contain standardized, premium-quality potencies of silymarin, silibinin and isosilybin B, providing the full spectrum of milk thistle compounds that promote a healthy liver and prostate.
Folic acid (folate) is a member of the B-complex family. It is found in abundance in leafy green vegetables, but is often deficient in the standard American diet. Folic acid participates in a coenzyme reaction that synthesizes DNA needed for cell growth and new cell formation, and helps convert vitamin B12 to one of its coenzyme forms. Folic acid provides the following health benefits:
Helps promote healthy DNA function
Maintains already normal homocysteine levels, which is important for heart health
Participates in the utilization of sugar and carbohydrates
Promotes healthier skin
Helps maintain a healthy GI tract
Maintains healthy endothelial function
Improves mild memory problems associated with aging