Research On Cocoa Flavanols Identified As One Of The Top Cardiovascular Studies Of 2005

You are here

Tuesday, January 3, 2006

Journal of the American College of Cardiology Includes Cocoa Study in its Highlights of the Year

HACKETTSTOWN, N.J. (Jan. 3, 2006) – A study that suggests cocoa flavanols could potentially improve blood vessel health was one the major advancements in cardiovascular research in 2005, according to a review of the “Highlights of the Year” published today in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Conducted by researchers in Germany and at the University of California, Davis, the study found that a flavanol-rich cocoa drink helped improve the ability of blood vessels to expand and contract in response to the body’s needs. The study was supported by Mars, Incorporated, the global leader in cocoa science that has collaborated on research on cocoa and health for more than 15 years.

“We believe one exciting outcome of this study is the demonstration that flavanol-rich cocoa can significantly improve an important marker of cardiovascular health in a population with an established cardiovascular risk factor,” said co-author Malte Kelm, M.D. “This raises the possibility that a potential new agent for the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease may emerge from additional research.”

The researchers studied smokers because their blood vessels tend to respond poorly to changes in blood flow – possibly related to impairments in how nitric oxide sends signals to the endothelium or the inner lining of blood vessels. This impaired endothelial function is a marker for increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Smokers were used as a model for decreased vascular function, but the researchers believe the beneficial effect would likely be seen in non-smokers as well.

“We are extremely pleased to have this study recognized as one of the top cardiovascular studies by JACC for its potential to impact cardiovascular health,” said Harold Schmitz, Mars Chief Science Officer. “We’ve dedicated the last 15 years to understanding the unique public health benefits these special cocoa compounds hold.”

Mars provided the flavanol-rich cocoa drink used in the study. It was specially processed to retain significantly higher levels of flavanols than are typically found in commercially-available cocoa drinks. Mars has a patented technology called Cocoapro® that helps retain the naturally occurring flavanols in the cocoa bean, and is used in the new healthy snack, CocoaVia™ and Dove® Dark Chocolate. Traditional cocoa processing often destroys many of these heart-healthy compounds.

Scientists have been encouraged by the growing number of independent studies that indicate cocoa flavanols may help influence factors associated with clotting and promote a healthy blood flow. Other studies suggest that cocoa flavanols can improve the health of blood vessels and reduce the oxidation of LDL cholesterol that may lead to cardiovascular problems like plaque formation and clogged arteries.

“It is clear that cocoa flavanols represent an intriguing new area of research with significant implications for nutrition and cardiovascular health,” said Dr. Carl L. Keen, a professor of nutrition and internal medicine at the University of California-Davis, who has led multiple studies on the health benefits of cocoa flavanols.

DeMaria AN et al. Highlights of the Year in JACC 2005. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 2006; 47(1):184-202.

Heiss C et al. Acute consumption of flavanol-rich cocoa and the reversal of endothelial dysfunction in smokers. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 2005;46(7):1276-1283.