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Natural Cocoa and its Potential Benefits on Health

8 May 2010

Epidemiological data demonstrate that regular dietary intake of plant-derived foods and beverages reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke.  Among many ingredients, cocoa might be an important mediator.  For many centuries, cocoa has been known for its good taste, now recent researches based on epidemiological observation studies suggest that cocoa intake was inversely associated with risk of cardiovascular mortality.

The health benefits of cocoa are probably mediated mainly by its flavonoids, a heterogeneous group of compounds found primarily in fruits and vegetables.  Although still debated, a range of potential mechanisms through which flavanoiods, especially epicatechin which is rich in cocoa, might exert their benefits on cardiovascular health have been proposed including activation of nitric oxide (NO) and antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antiplatelet effects.  These in turn might improve endothelial function, lipid levels, blood pressure, insulin resistance, and eventually clinical outcome.

Over consumption of chocolate is associated with caries, obesity, high blood pressure, and even diabetes.  Therefore, many doctors currently tend to warn patients about the potential health hazards of consuming large amount of chocolate.  It is important to strictly differentiate between the natural product cocoa and the processed product chocolate, which refers to the combination of cocoa, sugar, milk and other ingredients. Although cocoa itself has potential beneficial health effects, the high sugar and fat content of commercially available milk chocolate may not provides the same benefits.

For a little indulgence, consider cocoa-based products that are rich in flavonols but low in sugar and fats.

Source: Circulation 2009; 119:1433-1441

One Response

  1. Thanks for posting the article, was certainly a great read!

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