Cocoa Flavanols

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What are cocoa flavanols and what could they mean for our health?

Cocoa flavanols are naturally occurring dietary compounds that are found in the cacao plant. So why are they relevant for human health? A growing body of research has shown that they can support the function of our blood vessels. Flavanol intake increases nitric oxide which improves blood vessel elasticity and supports cardiovascular health. Working with a network of academic partners, we have spent the past twenty years trying to thoroughly investigate the role that cocoa flavanols can play to support health.


Take a minute to hear about our cocoa flavanols research from one of our scientists



So, is chocolate healthy because of flavanols?

No, chocolate is not a health food. We’re clear that chocolate is a treat and our research into cocoa flavanols is not about promoting chocolate as healthy. Cacao beans are a rich source of flavanols, but chocolate is not the best source for these nutrients, because they are actually destroyed in the chocolate making process.

“We do not study chocolate either in the context of our clinical research programs, and we don’t look at the relationship between chocolate intake and health outcomes”

The research we participate in has two aims. One – to answer comprehensively whether they are good for our health. And two – if they are, to investigate how we can translate these benefits into products that deliver health benefits to consumers, based on scientific evidence.

How do we make sure our research is sound?

When it comes to research, we take our responsibility to produce credible and robust science seriously. We follow well-established methods of scientific best practice and mitigate bias in all the research we are involved with.
When we work with partners, we do not tie our support of research to specific outcomes. We always encourage our research partners to publish studies we’ve collaborated on – whether the outcome is favorable to Mars or not.
The clinical trials we are involved in use matched controls or placebos alongside our test materials. This means that neither the participants nor the scientists know who is receiving the active ingredient. This is critical to addressing the issue of bias. This also enables us to conduct randomized controlled trials, which are widely thought of as the “gold standard” in scientific research.

Now we want to take this research further...

There is significant research underway, including COSMOS, the largest study yet into the cardiovascular benefits of flavanols. COSMOS stands for the Cocoa Supplement and Multivitamin Outcomes Study. It is a randomized, double-blinded, and placebo-controlled trial and brings together multiple leading medical research institutions. Partners include: Brigham and Women’s Hospital; Harvard Medical School; Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center; the National Institutes of Health; and Mars, Incorporated. The study began in 2015 and will conclude in 2020, with results expected in 2021.