Counting health benefits of Cocoa
Latest study suggests cocoa may be richer in
antioxidants than better known
"healthy" drinks like tea and
Researchers at Cornell University have shown that the popular winter beverage
contains more antioxidants per cup and points to a tasty alternative in the
quest to maintain a
diet rich in healthy antioxidants, chemicals that have been
shown to fight
heart disease and
A cup or two of hot cocoa every once in a while can
provide a delicious, warm and healthy way to obtain more antioxidants.
Although cocoa is found in many other products, such as chocolate, the
researchers said drinking it was the best way of harnessing its health benefits.
This is because a bar of chocolate is high in
saturated fats. A 40g bar of
chocolate contains about 8g of saturated fat. This compares with 0.3g in an
average cup of hot cocoa.
Consuming pure cocoa, might indeed be able to help one enjoy a few health
benefits, including a positive effect on
blood pressure and glucose metabolism,
however the majority of people eat processed chocolate with all the other less
desirable ingredients (i.e. added sugar, corn syrup, milk fats / dairy cream,
hydrogenated oils, etc...), and where the actual cocoa content may be less than
Risk of 4 of the 5 most common killer diseases: stroke, heart failure, cancer
diabetes, is reduced to less then 10% by drinking cocoa. Natural cocoa has
high levels of epicatechin. Epicatechin, one of a group of chemicals known as
flavanols, is directly linked to improved circulation and other hallmarks of
cardiovascular health. High blood pressure and other signs of cardiovascular
disease are rare among the Kuna (Indians, who live on the San Blas islands off
the coast of Panama). And they are known to consume large amounts of flavanol-rich
cocoa—three to four cups a day. Also, higher levels of epicatechin in the
bloodstream is accompanied by improved blood flow. Lab tests showed that
flavanols allow vascular tissue to relax.
Cocoa flavonoids are thought to have a protective effect on cardiovascular
health through their ability to alter a number of pathological processes
involved in the development of CVD.
Inhibiting the oxidation of LDL-cholesterol (‘bad’ cholesterol) by free
radicals, an important initial step in the formation of atherosclerotic plaque.
Suppressing the tendency for small blood cells, called platelets, to clump
together and form blood clots. This is often described as an ‘aspirin-like’
Regulating inflammatory and immune responses in blood vessel walls, which may
be abnormal in CVD.
Regulating vascular tone, or degree of constriction of small blood vessels,
which contributes to high blood pressure.
In producing these beneficial effects, cocoa flavonoids appear to act through a
range of mechanisms, some of which are not thought to be linked to antioxidant
Although you can enjoy cocoa either hot or cold, the hot version tends to
trigger the release of more antioxidants than its cold counterpart, the
Although most research has focused on cardiovascular health, scientists are
also looking at whether the biological activities of cocoa flavonoids may also
be applicable in the fight against other ailments, including cancer and
diseases associated with inflammation or impaired
immune function. One
potential application that has recently been reported is in the relief of diarrhoea, since cocoa flavonoids have shown an ability to inhibit fluid
secretion in the small intestine.