A study carried out by researchers at the University of Birmingham’s School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences suggests that a cup of hot cocoa might help protect against mental stress-induced cardiovascular events. Even a single stressful episode has been shown to increase the risk of such event, possibly due to the influence of stress on blood vessels.

The study examined the effects of acute intake of cocoa flavanols on stress-induced changes on vascular function. Presenting the findings in the journal Nutrients, the authors concluded that flavanols are effective at counteracting mental stress-induced endothelial dysfunction and improving peripheral blood flow during stress. The researchers suggest flavanol-rich dietary strategies should be used to protect vascular health during periods of stress: “Our findings are significant for everyday diet, given that the daily dosage administered could be achieved by consuming a variety of foods rich in flavanols – particularly apples, black grapes, blackberries, cherries, raspberries, pears, pulses, green tea and unprocessed cocoa. This has important implications for measures to protect the blood vessels of those individuals who are more vulnerable to the effects of mental stress.”


Baynham R, Veldhuijzen van Zanten JJCS, Johns PW, Pham QS, Rendeiro C. Cocoa Flavanols Improve Vascular Responses to Acute Mental Stress in Young Healthy Adults. Nutrients. 2021;13(4):1103. doi: 10.3390/nu13041103.


Jackie Day ND