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Cocoa Flavanols and Cardiovascular Health

Scientific research by Mars, Incorporated and collaborators demonstrates that cocoa flavanols have a range of health benefits, including favorably impacting circulation and cardiovascular health. A significant body of published research has shown that consumption of cocoa flavanols can promote healthy blood vessel function, thereby helping to support the health and function of the cardiovascular system.

About the Cardiovascular System

The cardiovascular system consists primarily of blood vessels (arteries, veins and resistant vessels) and the heart, which permits blood to transport nutrients (e.g., amino acids, glucose and electrolytes), oxygen and carbon dioxide throughout the body. Healthy cardiovascular function may support healthy aging, healthy blood pressure, cognitive function and exercise performance.

The Importance of Healthy Blood Flow

Part of healthy circulation is keeping blood vessels flexible so that blood can easily travel throughout the body. Healthy blood flow is important for people of all ages whether involved in strenuous physical activity or climbing a flight of stairs. All parts of the body need healthy flow of blood to deliver oxygen and nutrients, which is especially important for cardiovascular health, brain health, skin health, blood flow to the extremities and overall performance. Through the course of normal aging and other environmental factors (e.g., pollution, smoking, obesity), the vascular system is impacted. For example, arteries of older adults tend to be stiffer than those of younger adults, making it difficult for blood vessels to dilate and regulate blood pressure.

Role of Cocoa Flavanols in Cardiovascular Health

Cocoa flavanols are scientifically proven to help support a healthy heart by promoting healthy blood flow. Cocoa flavanols act on blood vessels by increasing production of a compound called nitric oxide (NO). NO causes the thin muscles that are around and in the walls of blood vessels to relax and the blood vessel to dilate – called vasodilation. Vasodilation is important for regulating blood pressure and controlling overall blood flow.
Many studies that show the heart healthy effects of cocoa flavanols have been done in people who have a high risk for heart disease, such as people who have high blood pressure or hypertension. While these studies have provided great insight into the health benefits of cocoa flavanols, the question remained as to whether or not cocoa flavanols are beneficial for the general population, health people.

As a member of the Flaviola Consortium, Mars, Incorporated and seven other partners conducted a study to investigate if it is beneficial for healthy people to consume cocoa flavanols. This study showed that cocoa flavanols could help maintain cardiovascular health as we age and that cocoa flavanols may improve heart health in already healthy people. Learn more about this research and partnership here.