Thursday, April 12, 2007


I have always been on the lookout for natural food substances that have pharmacological effects. Perhaps this arose from an inner worry that our western drugs have side effects (what a cliche "catch all" phrase) . Perhaps there is also a sense of trying to find some place for traditional medicine, which seem to have a place (at least in the hearts of many patients). The nagging problem is the  paucity of clinical evidence.

When I came across a small study by Dr Taubert of Germany (Archives of Internal Medicine), I was quite excited to see what it was all about. Interestingly enough it's cocoa. Probably black cocoa. Dr Taubert searched on the internet (I hear "google" is the verb we use for this kind of activity), for all studies that involve consuming cocoa, for seven days at least, at a certain dose, against tea (black or green), at a comparable dose for the same period, and their effects on BP.

He found that the people who consumed black cocoa, had their BP lowered to levels comparable to BP lowering drugs. Those on tea, who had no significant BP effects. In short, taking cocoa, seem to lower BP by the same proportion as drugs. The problem of course is that drinking too much cocoa may raise your weight, and that could neutralise the CVS benefit of BP lowering. Looks like the flavanols in black cocoa may be cardio-protective and may also be anti-hypertensive. You may remember that we had earlier posted that the flavanols in cocoa are anti-inflammatory, in atherosclerosis. It sure looks like we should drink more cocoa.

I must warn that Dr Taubert's study is a small study, and may provide us a direction but that it is by no means definitive or confirmatory. A lot more work needs to be done (not just on Google). Somehow I do not expect any large scale RCT on this soon. Remember, you cannot patent cocoa, and so there is no money to be made from such studies. I dont see big pharmas investing in such studies, anytime soon.

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