Dark chocolate or tomato extract for prehypertension: a randomised controlled trial
Discipline of General Practice, The University of Adelaide, Adelaide, SA 5005, Australia
BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2009, 9:22 doi:10.1186/1472-6882-9-22Published: 8 July 2009
Flavanol-rich chocolate and lycopene-rich tomato extract have attracted interest as potential alternative treatment options for hypertension, a known risk factor for cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. Treatment of prehypertension (SBP 120–139/DBP 80–89 mmHg) may forestall progression to hypertension. However, there has been only limited research into non-pharmacological treatment options for prehypertension. We investigated the effect of dark chocolate or tomato extract on blood pressure, and their acceptability as an ongoing treatment option in a prehypertensive population.
Our trial consisted of two phases: a randomised controlled three-group-parallel trial over 12 weeks (phase 1) followed by a crossover of the two active treatment arms over an additional 12-week period (phase 2). Group 1 received a 50 g daily dose of dark chocolate with 70% cocoa containing 750 mg polyphenols, group 2 were allocated one tomato extract capsule containing 15 mg lycopene per day, and group 3 received one placebo capsule daily over 8 weeks followed by a 4-week washout period. In phase 2 the active treatment groups were crossed over to receive the alternative treatment. Median blood pressure, weight, and abdominal circumference were measured 4-weekly, and other characteristics including physical activity, general health, energy, mood, and acceptability of treatment were assessed by questionnaire at 0, 8 and 20 weeks. We analysed changes over time using a linear mixed model, and one time point differences using Kruskal-Wallis, Fisher's-Exact, or t-tests.
Thirty-six prehypertensive healthy adult volunteers completed the 6-month trial. Blood pressure changes over time within groups and between groups were not significant and independent of treatment. Weight and other characteristics did not change significantly during the trial. However, a marked difference in acceptability between the two treatment forms (chocolate or capsule) was revealed (p < 0.0001). Half of the participants allocated to the chocolate treatment found it hard to eat 50 g of dark chocolate every day and 20% considered it an unacceptable long-term treatment option, whereas all participants found it easy and acceptable to take a capsule each day for blood pressure.
Our study did not find a blood pressure lowering effect of dark chocolate or tomato extract in a prehypertensive population. Practicability of chocolate as a long-term treatment option may be limited.