Dark chocolate is a popular health food packed with nutrients and antioxidants. Researchers have now found an interesting link between the consumption of dark chocolate and reduced risk of essential hypertension and venous thromboembolism.

Essential hypertension is a condition in which a person suffers from high blood pressure (above 120/80 mmHg) without any underlying cause. Over time, this can result in blood vessel damage and increase the risk of stroke, heart attack, vision loss, brain aneurysm, dementia and heart failure.

Venous thromboembolism, on the other hand, is a serious medical condition that causes blood clots in the veins that can potentially result in disability and death.

Dark chocolates contain 50-90% cocoa solids in comparison to milk chocolates, which have around 10-50% cocoa solids. It is rich in iron, magnesium, copper, zinc and flavanols.

Earlier studies have shown how dark chocolate could be beneficial for the cardiovascular system. However, it was not known if eating dark chocolate could help reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

In a recent study published in Nature Scientific Reports, researchers looked at how dark chocolate intake could affect the risk of 12 cardiovascular diseases, including essential hypertension, coronary heart disease, heart failure, atrial fibrillation, non-rheumatic valve disease, non-ischemic cardiopathy, stroke, blood clots beginning in the veins and heart attack.

The study found that dark chocolate intake was significantly associated with a reduced risk of essential hypertension and a suggestive association with a reduced risk of venous thromboembolism. However, no significant link was found with the other 10 cardiovascular diseases that were part of the study.

"Dark chocolate is rich in substances such as flavanols, methylxanthines and caffeine, with flavanols being the main reason for its cardiovascular benefits," the researchers wrote.

"Our study provides evidence for a causality between dark chocolate intake and a reduced risk of essential hypertension, which has important implications for the prevention of essential hypertension in the population," they added.

However, the study had certain limitations. The sample size exposure data was small, and the researchers used data from European ancestry. This means that the results of the study may not be generalizable.

The study did not look into beneficial effects based on the amount of dark chocolate intake and the risk for cardiovascular diseases based on factors like age or gender, either.

Although it is advisable for patients with high blood pressure to switch unhealthy snacks with dark chocolate, experts caution that it should not be relied on as the only way to prevent essential hypertension.