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Cardiovascular aging is characterized by marked functional decline and increased cardiovascular disease risk. Evidence suggests that flavonols, a broad class of bioactive compounds found in cocoa and other fruits, exert cardioprotective effects, bolstering cardiorespiratory fitness. A recent study shows that older adults who took cocoa flavonols experienced a nearly 10 percent gain in peak oxygen consumption, a marker of cardiorespiratory fitness, during exercise.

Researchers conducted a study involving 68 healthy older adults aged 55 to 79. Half of the participants took 1,000 milligrams of cocoa flavonols daily for a month, while the other half took a placebo. The researchers measured the participants' peak oxygen consumption during exercise and assessed other aspects of their cardiovascular health, including blood pressure and blood vessel health.

They found that participants who took the cocoa flavonols showed marked improvements in their cardiorespiratory fitness. Their oxygen use during exercise increased by nearly 10 percent, and their exercise capacity increased by more than 6 percent. Their resting systolic and diastolic blood pressures decreased by 5.4 mmHg and 2.9 mmHg, respectively, and their blood vessel function improved by 1.3 percent. Those who took the placebo didn’t demonstrate these improvements.

These findings suggest that cocoa flavonols benefit older adults' cardiovascular health by improving fitness levels and other health markers, potentially promoting better heart health in aging. Interestingly, the benefits of cardiorespiratory fitness extend to cognitive function, too. Learn more in this clip featuring Dr. Axel Montagne.

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