A single dose of dark chocolate increases parasympathetic modulation and heart rate variability in healthy subjects

Uma única dose de chocolate amargo aumenta a modulação parassimpática e a variabilidade da frequência cardíaca em indivíduos saudáveis

Ana Amélia Machado DUARTE Cristiano MOSTARDA Maria Claudia IRIGOYEN Katya RIGATTO About the authors

ABSTRACT

Objective:

The aim of this study was to investigate the acute effect of a single dose of dark chocolate (70% cocoa) on blood pressure and heart rate variability.

Methods:

Thirty-one healthy subjects (aged 18-25 years; both sexes) were divided into two groups: 10 subjects in the white chocolate (7.4 g) group and 21 in the dark chocolate (10 g) group; measurements were performed at the university's physiology lab. An electrocardiogram measured the sympathovagal balance by spectral and symbolic analysis.

Results:

A single dose of dark chocolate significantly reduced systolic blood pressure and heart rate. After consuming 10 g of dark chocolate, significant increases were observed for heart rate variability, standard deviation of RR intervals standard deviation of all NN intervals, square root of the mean squared differences between adjacent normal RR intervals root mean square of successive differences, and an increase in the high frequency component in absolute values, representing the parasympathetic modulation.

Conclusion:

In conclusion the importance of our results lies in the magnitude of the response provoked by a single dose of cocoa. Just 10 g of cocoa triggered a significant increase in parasympathetic modulation and heart rate variability. These combined effects can potentially increase life expectancy because a reduction in heart rate variability is associated with several cardiovascular diseases and higher mortality.

Keywords:
Autonomic nervous system; Cocoa; Flavonoids.

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