Studies Tout Benefits of Cocoa Flavanols

November 7, 2005

2 Min Read
Studies Tout Benefits of Cocoa Flavanols

Studies Tout Benefits of Cocoa Flavanols

Duesseldorf, Germany & HERSHEY, Pa.--New research sponsored bytwo chocolate companies suggests consumption of cocoa has antioxidant benefits.According to the new findings, cocoa's healthy effects within the body are dueto its content of antioxidant flavanols.

In the first study, researchers orally administered a 100 mg drink containingcocoa flavanols manufactured with Cocoapro®, a patented process from chocolatemanufacturer Mars Inc., to 11 smokers in a randomized double-blind crossoverformat. On the first day of administration, the flavanol content of the drinkwas high (176 to 185 mg), and on the second day the flavanol content of thedrink was low (less than 11 mg). There were significant increases in circulatingnitric oxide (NO) at 2 hours after ingestion of the higher-flavanol drink,whereas there was no significant increase in NO levels after administration ofthe lower-flavanol drink. The researchers concluded the circulating pool ofbioactive NO and endothelium-dependent vasodilation is acutely increased insmokers following the oral ingestion of cocoa flavanols, noting the increase inthe circulating NO pool may contribute to beneficial vascular health effects offlavanol-rich food. The study appeared in the Journal of the American Collegeof Cardiology, 7:1276-1283, 2005).

According to a release from Mars Inc., the study was not designed toinvestigate whether flavanols could protect smokers, but was conducted onsmokers due to their characteristically abnormal blood vessel responses,possibly related to impairments in how NO sends signals to their blood vesselendothelia. This impaired endothelial function is a marker for increased risk ofcardiovascular disease.

"While the long-term benefits of such improvements remain to beestablished, we believe that one exciting outcome of this study is thedemonstration that flavanol-rich cocoa can significantly improve an importantmarker of cardiovascular health in a population with an establishedcardiovascular risk factor," said Malte Kelm, M.D., one of the researcherswho conducted the study. "This raises the possibility that a potential newagent for the prevention and/or treatment of cardiovascular disease may emergefrom additional research."

In the second study, funded by The Hershey Co. and presented at CornellUniversity's Functional Foods, Bioactive Compounds and Human Health Conference,the researchers found "all products" containing natural cocoa haveflavanol antioxidants, and the level of antioxidants in commonly availablechocolate products is proportional to the amount of cocoa in the products,according to Hershey.

Researchers measured the antioxidant activity of three mainstream brands ofcocoa, baking chocolate, dark chocolate, milk chocolate and chocolate syrup. Theproducts were analyzed at Brunswick Laboratories, an independent researchlaboratory, and at Cornell University. The results suggested the antioxidantpower of the products tested depended on their natural cocoa content. Thehighest flavanol levels were found in natural cocoa powder, followed byunsweetened baking chocolate, dark chocolate, milk chocolate and chocolatesyrup.
"The results are in: the more natural cocoa, the more flavanolantioxidants," said Debra Miller, senior nutrition scientist with Hershey."This study helps clear up the confusion surrounding flavanols in chocolateby showing the clear link between natural cocoa levels and flavanol antioxidantlevels. These findings are particularly important for consumers, given thegrowing interest in the antioxidant benefits of cocoa and dark chocolate."

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