Cocoa and chocolate flavonoids: implications for cardiovascular health.
This paper offers a review of current scientific research regarding the potential cardiovascular health benefits of flavonoids found in cocoa and chocolate. Recent reports indicate that the main flavonoids found in cocoa, flavan-3-ols and their oligomeric derivatives, procyanidins, have a variety of beneficial actions, including antioxidant protection and modulation of vascular homeostasis. These findings are supported by similar research on other flavonoid-rich foods. Other constituents in cocoa and chocolate that may also influence cardiovascular health are briefly reviewed. The lipid content of chocolate is relatively high; however, one third of the lipid in cocoa butter is composed of the fat stearic acid, which exerts a neutral cholesterolemic response in humans. Cocoa and chocolate contribute to trace mineral intake, which is necessary for optimum functioning of all biologic systems and for vascular tone. Thus, multiple components in chocolate, particularly flavonoids, can contribute to the complex interplay of nutrition and health. Applications of this knowledge include recommendations by health professionals to encourage individuals to consume a wide range of phytochemical-rich foods, which can include dark chocolate in moderate amounts.