But not too much! The good news keeps on coming about the potential benefits of cocoa flavonols. They may improve your mood, cut through mind fog, and take your blood pressure down a few notches. One of the latest studies on these effects hinted that chocolate with medium and high levels of cocoa flavonols could improve visual attention and verbal skills in elderly people. Cocoa powder, rather than chocolate bars, may be the best way to get your flavonols with the least amount of calories. The short-term visual/verbal study also showed that the chocolate drinkers had decreased insulin resistance (a group of risk factors for diabetes and cardiovascular disease), blood pressure, and lipid peroxidation (which gauges cellular damage).
A recent dark chocolate/blood pressure study, which reviewed all of the reliable studies published, concluded that dark chocolate can bring down blood pressure a few points—2.8/2.2 mm Hg. Even a couple points helps reduce your cardiovascular risk. Overdoing it on chocolate bars can make you gain weight and wipe out the benefits. Just an ounce should do.
Age and overweight (or obesity) are the most common traits that make someone likely to develop type 2 diabetes, but hormones may also have something to do with it. A family history of diabetes, prediabetes, minority ethnicity (Hispanic, African American, Native American, Asian, or Pacific Islander), high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease or abnormal cholesterol levels, and inactivity also put people at higher risk of developing diabetes. For women, having high blood pressure develop during pregnancy (called preeclampsia), diabetes during pregnancy (called gestational diabetes), or polycystic ovary syndrome raise the risk even more.
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JoAnn V. Pinkerton, MD, NCMP