Yes. That's right. You knew there was a reason you subscribed to this blog. Finally, a study you can sink your teeth into: regular consumption of cocoa (via dark chocolate) has been shown to lower blood pressure without causing weight gain, increasing cholesterol or glucose levels. And it's believed to be due to a phytochemical (phyto = "plant") in cocoa called polyphenol.
The study, published in Journal of the American Medical Association (2007;298:49-60), randomly assigned men and women with hypertension to receive either 6.3 g (30 kcal) per day of dark chocolate containing 30 mg of polyphenols or the same amount of polyphenol-free white chocolate. After 18 weeks, researchers found those participants consuming dark chocolate had significantly lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure levels. Overall, the prevalence of high blood pressure declined from 86% to 68% in this group. No changes were observed in the white chocolate group (white chocolate does not contain any cocoa).
For those of you who are skeptical that regular consumption of dark chocolate will not cause weight gain, note that the amount used in this study is VERY small. Thirty calories of dark chocolate is equivalent to only a few bites. So don't be overly ambitious about all this. The polyphenols in dark chocolate are powerful in low levels. Savor those few bites and know they are GOOD for you.