Why is it good to drink cocoa when stressed?

An increased intake of flavanols - a group of molecules found naturally in fruits and vegetables - may protect people from strokes, heart disease, thrombosis, and other cardiovascular problems caused by mental stress.

When the endothelium functions effectively, the thin membrane of cells lining the heart and blood vessels helps reduce the risk of peripheral vascular disease, stroke, heart disease, diabetes, kidney failure, tumor growth, thrombosis and severe viral infections, according to a new study. And mental stress can adversely affect the function of blood vessels.

A group of UK researchers studied the effect of cocoa flavanols on stress-induced changes in vascular function, Nutrients reported.

They found that drinking flavanol-rich cocoa could be an effective dietary strategy for reducing transient endothelial dysfunction after mental stress and also improve blood flow during stressful episodes.

The researchers measured blood flow to the forearm and cardiovascular activity at rest and during stress, and assessed blood vessel function for 90 minutes after stress, finding that blood vessel function was less impaired when participants drank cocoa high in flavanols. Researchers have also found that flavanols improve blood flow during times of stress.

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