A study published in the journal of Physiology shows that cocoa  contains epicatechins, one of several flavonoids found in red wine, green tea, apples and in particularly high concentrations in dark chocolate [1]. The study shows that epicatechins translate into better cardiovascular health for the consumer.

Then again , cocoa is also purported to have many more benefits, through its polyphenols, as we have previously posted [2-4]

In summary of those posts, here are the main possible benefits:

  • Carbohydrate blocking  [2]
  •   This is probably the most surprising result: Pure cocoa might help weight management(?!)
  • Neuroprotection [3]
  • Polyphenols might protect from the  quinolinic acid-induced Quinolinic acid has a potent neurotoxic effect and involved in neurodegenerative      processes in the brain, such as in AIDS dementia complex, Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease. (Wikipedia)
  • Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome [4]

Polyphenols are organic chemicals. The most common  are the condensed tannins, found in virtually all plants. Polyphenols can comprise up to 50% of the dry weight of leaves. Such polyphenols have antioxidant action (Wikipedia)

 

Cocoa Beans in Pod

The latest claimed benefits is cardiovascular health through epicatechins [ 1]:

Epicatechins compounds protect organelles in cell membranes (mitochondria) that are related to the cell energy.    Norman Hollenberg, a professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School is quoted to have said : “.. stroke, heart failure, cancer and diabetes, is reduced to less then 10% in the Kuna (Panama). They can drink up to 40 cups of cocoa a week….’

40 cups in a week? That is about 6 cups a day of probably highly pure cocoa. Keep in mind that any concentration above 90% is probably undrinkable since the 100% pure cocoa drink was a rite of passage for young men in South America in the Pre-Colombian days…

So probably your cup o’day of hot sweetened cocoa might not achieve much…Keep in mind that the processed sugar in low cocoa concentration chocolates destroys a lot of the overall benefits.  Let us be clear: Pure cocoa, the only healthful ingredient in chocolate, would have to be at the top of the list of ingredients of your chocolate bar, not sugar! we are talking more than 70% on the label.

Talk to your Nutritionist….

Sources:

[1] Journal of Physiology:“A chocolate a day keeps the doctor away?”; Christopher F. Barnett1 and  Teresa De Marco; Dec 15 2011

[2] MND ; “Cocoa, the story gets better all the time!”, May 2011

[3] MND ; “Possible Neuroprotective effects of Polyphenols and Spirulina”

[4] MND ; “Fibromyalgia/CFS: High cocoa polyphenol rich chocolate may reduce the burden of the symptoms in chronic fatigue syndrome”

[5] sciencedaily ; “Cocoa ‘Vitamin’ Health Benefits Could Outshine Penicillin”,March  2007

 

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