Home Cocoa flavanols: Super food for a healthy heart

Consumption of diet rich cocoa flavanols is considered to improve cardiovascular functioning. Ageing and improper lifestyle weakens the heart, resulting in trouble in cleaning blood. 

Our blood carrying arteries tend to become stiffer as we age. This makes blood flow difficult, increasing the risk of hypertension.  Cocoa flavanols, obtained from cocoa bean or cacao bean, are known to improve cardiovascular conditions. 

Through various methods, parts of the tree, especially beans, are used as the essential ingredient to obtain chocolate. Cocoa bean is rich source of getting cocoa solids and cocoa butter which are basis of chocolate.  

Chocolate is primary product of cocoa or cacao tree. Cocoa is known as a rich source of antioxidants including procyanidins and flavonoids. These antioxidants leave anti-aging effect. Apart from antioxidants, cocoa is full of epicatechin, which is considered to improve cardiovascular health immensely. Raw cocoa benefits the most as during cooking, many of the elements are destroyed.

Hollenberg and mates’ from Harvard Medical School conducted a study to know the effects of cocoa and flavanols. Kuna people of Panama consume cocoa in good amount.

After research, it was found that Kuna people had lower rates of heart diseases while other set of people, who do not eat cocoa flavanols showed opposite result.

A 15-year study on elderly men, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in 2006 found a 50 per cent reduction in cardiovascular mortality and a 47 per cent reduction in all-cause mortality for men regularly consuming most cocoa, compared to those consuming the least cocoa from all sources.

 Recent research demonstrates beneficial effect of cocoa on blood pressure, insulin resistance, and vascular and platelet function. Although still debated, a range of potential mechanisms through which cocoa might exert its benefits on cardiovascular health has been proposed, including activation of nitric oxide and antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.

This review summarizes the available data on the cardiovascular effects of cocoa, outlines potential mechanisms involved in the response to cocoa, and highlights the potential clinical implications associated with its consumption. 

(Study conducted by Correspondence to Roberto Corti, MD, Cardiovascular Center, Cardiology, University Hospital, Raemistrasse 100, CH-8091 Zurich, Switzerland.)

A closely interwoven relation has been seen between cocoa or chocolate consumption and decrease in risk of cardiovascular diseases. Another study known as Zutphen Elderly indicated that cocoa consumption resulted in decrease in blood pressure and overall substantial increase in cardiovascular mortality. 

Chocolate is one of the most liked food items on the planet. Yet, constant feeding of misconception about the harmful effects of chocolate has forced the chocolate lovers to frown over the consumption for fear of obesity leading to heart diseases.

When our taste buds urge and heart craves, it is the mind, wrongly informed that curbs us from eating chocolate.   

Since we know that cocoa flavanols are heart-friendly and chocolate is obtained from cocoa, all causes of worry while consuming chocolate must come to rest. Studies conducted over the years have indicated a relation between a healthy heart and chocolate consumption.

For best result of cocoa consumption in low heart related risks, raw cocoa is consumed in powder form added to any recipe. Smoothies, desserts and cocoa drinks are good combinations.

There are a few common beliefs about chocolate consumption with no proper study behind them.

According to one belief, unconstrained consumption of chocolate will end up in obesity. Some other side effects are considered too.

Acne: Though no scientific reason to back up, popular belief shows that chocolate consumption pave way to acne.

Addiction: Chocolate doesn’t have any addiction prone property yet the amazing taste gives birth to the term chocoholics.

Stimulant: Chocolate contains caffeine capable of low degree stimulation. The bromine in cocoa has the same effect. White chocolate is free of stimulants since cocoa butter does not contain any stimulant.

Weight increase: Though there is no direct relation through scientific studies, chocolate consumption is blamed to increase body fat. Weight gain results in various diseases including cardiovascular, diabetes and hypertension.

Lead: While manufacturing, lead contamination with cocoa may occur causing mild lead poisoning.

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