Flavanols Help Your Body Handle Stress

We’ve published several articles discussing how cocoa flavanols can improve brain and heart health by causing the body to increase production of nitric oxide.  Nitric oxide helps relax the blood vessels to improve blood flow, much in the way prescription drugs clinically proven to help with Raynaud’s symptoms work.  Recently we read that cocoa flavanols help your body handle stress. 

Since stress, in addition to cold, can trigger Raynaud’s attacks, we asked Alan Frost, an expert on cocoa flavanols and founder of FlavaNaturals to tell us more about how cocoa flavanols help your body handle stress.  Here’s what Alan shared with us:

From the Desk of Alan Frost
Founder  & CEO, FlavaNaturals

The Raynaud’s community is all too familiar with the effects of stress, including changes in mood, sleep, and productivity. And, of course, emotional stress can trigger attacks for many Raynaud’s sufferers.

But did you know that cocoa flavanol antioxidants, found in dark chocolate and cocoa powder, can help your body better respond to stress?

In fact, blood vessels functioned significantly better during mental stress in people who consumed high flavanol cocoa, in a new breakthrough study conducted at the University of Birmingham and published in the Journal of Nutrients. And we all know the importance of blood vessel functioning to Raynaud’s sufferers!

This latest study – a placebo-controlled study of healthy adults – examined the effects cocoa flavanols (680mg) had on stress-induced changes in vascular function. Blood vessel function and circulation improved by an astonishing 25% when measured a half hour after a stressful task! (This was measured by flow mediated artery dilation, a measure of blood vessel functioning and circulation.) Peripheral blood flow was also significantly enhanced. 

Lead investigator, Dr. Catarina Rendeiro, explains, “We found that drinking flavanol-rich cocoa can be an effective dietary strategy to reduce temporary impairments in endothelial function following mental stress and also improve blood flow during stressful episodes.”

Another recent study published in the Journal of Antioxidants showed a compelling 29% reduction in cortisol, the hormone our brains trigger from our adrenal glands in response to stress, following high-flavanol chocolate consumption. Participants were randomized to either consume special high flavanol dark chocolate (500mg of cocoa flavanols) or low flavanol chocolate (negligible flavanols) daily over four weeks. Cortisol levels fell by nearly a third in the high flavanol chocolate group but increased slightly in the low flavanol group.

So could cocoa flavanols found in cocoa powder and dark chocolate help you manage your stress? Recent studies suggest yes! But be sure to consume 500mg of cocoa flavanols or more daily to match the approach in these fascinating new studies. And carefully choose a high flavanol cocoa powder or dark chocolate since most brands do not have enough flavanols to provide the desired benefits. Good luck and enjoy!

For more on how dark chocolate and cocoa flavanols can benefit Frosties, see the following articles:

Guilt-Free Chocolate Benefits for Frosties

Chocolate RX for Frosties?

Can Cocoa Flavanols Help Frosties? 

And to learn more about a product that’s both yummy and high in cocoa flavanols, see our product review on FlavaNaturals.

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