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22 Proven Health Benefits of Cocoa

Everyone loves the taste of chocolate, but most people are unaware of its amazing health benefits. Cocoa contains polyphenols, which are rich in antioxidants and have an important nutritional value.

Cocoa consumption can improve heart and blood vessel health and neurodegenerative diseases, make you happy, and give you great skin.

Read this post to learn more about the amazing health benefits of cocoa.

Introduction

For hundreds of years, cocoa has been used in body rituals and medicine throughout the world. Cocoa originated in the Americas and spread to Europe over time. Cocoa is used to reduce weight gain, fatigue, stimulate the nervous system, and improve digestive function, among others [R].

Interestingly, Panama is well-known for its cocoa consumption, and its population has better health and lower incidence of heart disease.

Cocoa comes from beans produced by the Theobroma Cacao tree and contains many beneficial components [RRR]:

  • Polyphenols – plant-derived compounds that protect against bacteria and UV rays. The most abundant polyphenols in cocoa are flavonoids, catechins, and epicatechins.
  • Theobromine – plant-derived compound that has many important functions in heart, respiratory, and mouth health.
  • Minerals – the most abundant minerals are magnesium, copper, and iron, all of which are important in overall health and body function.

Mechanisms of Action

Flavanols (a class of flavonoids) present in cocoa increase the production of nitric oxide (NO) by blood vessels (endothelial cells), which leads to widening of blood vessels, improving their function.

Cocoa exerts its antioxidant properties due to flavanols, which decrease the production of free radicals and, therefore, prevent the destruction of fats in the blood [R].

Epicatechin and catechin cross the blood-brain barrier and localize in certain areas of the brain, therefore providing protection to the brain and improving cognitive function [R].

Flavanols also slow the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates, which balances glucose levels in the body [R].

Health Benefits of Cocoa

1) Cocoa Lowers Blood Pressure

Black tonometer and heart isolated on white

Consumption of cocoa has been proven to lower blood pressure [R].

A study of 15 healthy people showed that the higher the concentration of flavanols, the greater the effect of cocoa on reducing blood pressure. Those who consumed dark chocolate, which has a high concentration of flavonols, saw a much more significant impact than those who consumed white chocolate (without flavonols) [R].

A meta-analysis showed that those who consumed high amounts of flavanols saw a greater reduction in blood pressure than those who consumed little to no flavanols [R].

2) Cocoa Prevents Oxidative Stress damaging cells

Polyphenols in cocoa are antioxidants that prevent free radicals from damaging cells [R].

Cocoa has been shown to have a higher antioxidant capacity than green and black tea and red wine [RR].

3) Cocoa May Improve Cognitive Function woman-forgetful-fb

Cocoa flavonoids improve brain health and cognitive function through both direct and indirect mechanisms.

Flavonoids play a role in brain health by protecting, enhancing function, and creating new neurons. They can also reverse neuron damage in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases [RR].

Flavonoids, mainly catechin and epicatechin, cross the blood-brain barrier and localize in areas of the brain responsible for memory and learning, which is where most neurodegeneration occurs [R].

Some studies (DB-RCT) have shown that acute consumption of cocoa improved working memory in healthy adults [RR].

A pilot study on 4 healthy young adults showed that cocoa flavanols also increase blood flow in the brain [R].

4) Cocoa May Prevent Heart Disease dc-Cover-ur8ogei3nb0t5ib4l76k5ugmk1-20160710122803.Medi

The flavonoids present in cocoa decrease blood clotting (platelet activity and accumulation), therefore preventing the formation of blockages within blood vessels [RR].

A meta-analysis suggested that the consumption of cocoa can reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure (hypertension), lower blood pressure, and reduce the risk of heart disease [R].

A review showed that daily consumption of cocoa can increase nitric oxide (NO) circulation in the bloodstream and improve endothelial function [R].

5) Cocoa Enhances Mood 10-Ways-to-Feel-Energized-All-Day-Long-1

A pilot study on 48 healthy men and women revealed that consumption of cocoa enhances mood [R].

A review of several studies also showed the effects of chocolate on mood. Based on the evidence collected, cocoa and chocolate are effective in enhancing mood as well as relieving mental fatigue [R].

6) Cocoa Reduces Constipation healthy-intestine

Cocoa husk is rich in dietary fiber, which helps keep the colon healthy.

A study (DB-RCT) on 48 constipated children revealed that cocoa, mainly cocoa husk, reduces constipation. Those that received the cocoa supplement reported quicker bowel movements, and fewer hard stools, compared to placebo [R].

A single-blind study of 44 healthy men and women suggested that regular consumption of cocoa results in a healthier bowel. Participants who consumed two servings of cocoa a day had faster, more frequent bowel movements, as well as softer stools [R].

7) Cocoa Reduces Chronic Fatigue Syndrome get-energized

A study (DB-RCT) showed that daily consumption of high concentrations of cocoa polyphenols reduced chronic fatigue syndrome, compared to placebo [R].

8) Cocoa May Treat Brain Disorders optic-neuropathy

Increased reactive oxidative species (ROS) play a role in the onset of brain disorders.

Due to the antioxidant properties of polyphenols, consumption of cocoa reduced the production of ROS, potentially protecting against neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia [R].

A pilot study also showed that catechins and epicatechins in cocoa prevent the toxicity and death of brain cells in rats [R].

9) Cocoa May Reduce Obesity  obese_man_800

A study found that rats who were fed cocoa had less visceral fat. This may be due to the ability of cocoa to decrease the production of fats [R].

Another study showed that cocoa consumption in male mice reduced weight gain and the absorption of fat from the diet. Cocoa also reduced inflammation associated with obesity as well as improved insulin resistance [R].

10) Cocoa Is Anti-Cancer Stop-Cancer

Ornithine decarboxylase (ODC) is an enzyme present in normal cells that can lead to cancer if in excess. Cocoa flavanols and procyanidins reduce ODC activity, therefore reducing the risk of developing tumors, and can also kill colon cancer cells [R].

A pilot study revealed that cocoa also inhibits the growth and reproduction of prostate cancer cells, but not the growth of normal cells [R].

Moreover, a review showed that the antioxidant and anti-inflammatoryproperties of cocoa play a role in reducing the overall risk of cancer [R].

11) Cocoa Reduces Bad Cholesterol 

Cholesterol plaque in artery

A study (DB-RCT) on 48 people at-risk for heart disease and another study (DB-RCT) on 25 people with normal or slightly high cholesterol showed that consuming cocoa powder on a regular basis decreased LDL (bad) cholesterol and increased HDL (good) cholesterol [RR].

12) Cocoa Improves Diabetes and Insulin Resistance  blood-check-banner

shown that consumption of polyphenols can improve diabetes. Cocoa polyphenols, especially from dark chocolate, improve glucose breakdown, reduce blood pressure, and improve insulin resistance [RR].

A study on 10 diabetic patients revealed that consumption of cocoa counteracts blood vessel dysfunction caused by diabetes and improves endothelial function [R].

13) Cocoa Protects the Skin Top-10-Foods-That-Protects-Your-Skin-from-the-Sun

The antioxidant properties of cocoa flavonols play an important role in skin health.

A study (DB-RCT) on 24 healthy women who consumed high amounts of cocoa flavanols concluded that cocoa flavanols provide protection from UV rays, improve blood circulation, and hydrate the skin making it softer and less scaling [R].

Another study found that cocoa flavanols improve blood circulation and increase oxygen concentration in the skin [R].

Another study (DB-RCT) on 11 smokers showed that the consumption of flavanols can reverse skin damage caused by smoking [R].

14) Cocoa Protects the Teeth  welcome_image_2

A review and pilot study on human molar showed that theobromine, present in cocoa, protects the teeth (tooth enamel) [RR].

15) Cocoa Helps the Lunglungs-diagram-120926

A review showed that theobromine relieves coughing in humans and guinea pigs, with less side effects that other remedies [R].

A review and a pilot study on asthma patients showed that theobromine can improve lung function (dilation of the bronchioles) [RR].

16) Topical Cocoa may Help Heal Wounds Anti-Aging-Debunked-1-1038x560

Cocoa has long been used as a remedy for skin conditions such as burns and cuts. While there is not a lot of evidence for the topical use of cocoa products, a review of several studies showed that it promoted the regeneration of skin cells in pigs [RR].

Cocoa also disinfects skin wounds and protects against harmful UV rays [R].

17) Cocoa Treats Copper Deficiency due to Tube Feeding

A retrospective study on patients having long-term tube feeding showed that their copper deficiency was successfully treated with cocoa [R].

A similar study revealed that cocoa restored and maintained normal copper levels in deficient patients [R].

18) Cocoa Reduces Negative Effects of Magnesium Deficiency 

A diet low in magnesium can result in magnesium deficiency, which produces adverse symptoms, such as a loss of muscle mass.

Cocoa is rich in magnesium. A pilot study on rats revealed that cocoa can increase magnesium levels and improve the symptoms of its deficiency [R].

Cocoa Butter

Cocoa butter is the fat extracted from cocoa beans. Some of its components include the amino acidsarginine and leucine, fatty acids, such as oleic, stearic, and palmitic acids, theobromine, and caffeine, among others [R].

Cocoa butter doesn’t contain the polyphenols and, therefore, doesn’t have the same effect as cocoa.

19) Cocoa Butter Reduces Cough Depositphotos_6301020_m

Cocoa butter is widely used to treat a cough, in combination with warm milk and honey. Cocoa butter can also be rubbed on the chest and back to reduce coughing.

Several studies have shown that theobromine and caffeine, two active components of cocoa butter, are effective in reducing cough [RR].

20) Cocoa Butter May Reduce VLDL Cholesterol Cholesterol

VLDL cholesterol is the most unhealthy cholesterol-carrying protein as it contains the highest amount of fat (triglycerides). A pilot study revealed that rats that received cocoa butter had less VLDL cholesterol. This decrease can be attributed to a decrease in fat production or an increase in its removal [R].

21) Cocoa Butter May Improve the Skin   

a young beautiful girl on the beach

A pilot study on human skin showed that cocoa butter moderately increases the thickness of skin as well as collagen density. Results were better when cocoa butter was combined with cocoa polyphenols, compared to cocoa butter alone [R].

22) Cocoa Butter May Improve Kidney Function BlueManKidneys_250x333

A pilot study on rats showed that rats given a cocoa butter supplement reduced creatinine levels and may improve kidney function [R].

 

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FocusFusion Cocoa is BACK!

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Also, we’ve increased the number of servings per container from 18 to 30 which required us to modify our packaging from individual packets to a resealable bag (with a single-serving scoop).

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Amazing health benefits of drinking hot chocolate

Hot chocolate is the perfect companion for those cold winter nights (and mornings and afternoons) when all you need is a little snuggle and warmth. But this delicious chocolaty brew not only packs the good stuff, it also has some pretty amazing benefits as well.

Cocoa powder is a great source of flavanoids which are high in antioxidants. Antioxidants play an important role in one’s overall health – and are natural compounds found in some foods that help neutralize free radicals in our bodies. Free radicals are substances that occur naturally in our bodies, but attack the fats, protein and the DNA in our cells, which can cause different types of diseases and accelerate the aging process.

Furthermore, there have been studies done about the health benefits of red wine, but when measured on the same per-serving basis, the antioxidant concentration in hot chocolate was almost twice as strong as red wine. Cornell University researchers found that cocoa’s concentration was two to three times stronger than that of green tea and four to five times stronger than that of black tea.

Drinking hot chocolate made specifically from unsweetened dark chocolate can carry significant health benefits. Researchers at Harvard Medical School analyzed 21 studies that involved more than 2,500 participants and found that drinking chocolate is associated with reduced blood pressure, improved blood vessel health and lowering LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and elevating HDL (“good”) cholesterol. Earlier evidence also suggested that drinking cocoa may be responsible for the very low incidence of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer.

Packed with minerals, just one tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder contains 3 to 9 percent of the recommended daily intake of iron, manganese, magnesium and zinc. In addition to carrying oxygen, iron helps make red blood cells and is essential for your immune system. Manganese is a component of enzymes that form cartilage and bones, metabolize nutrients and function as antioxidants inside every cell in your body. Magnesium helps produce energy and maintain a normal heart rhythm. Zinc is vital for the production and development of new cells, including immune system cells. Without enough zinc, the number of bacteria-fighting cells goes down and you become more susceptible to illness.

Additionally, cocoa contains the substance phenethylamine, which is a neurotransmitter found in the brain that acts as a mood elevator and natural antidepressant.The University of Michigan Health System (UMIM) states that cocoa may also have the ability to boost endorphins, which act as natural “happy” opiates and are responsible for the highs that are often felt after exercising, laughing, having sex or winning the lottery. Finally, UMIM says that cocoa may boost serotonin, which is the neurotransmitter that antidepressants target in order to boost overall happiness levels.

 

 


Cocoa Rich in Health Benefits

Cocoa, used throughout history as a folk medicine, may actually have significant health benefits, according to a new study by Harvard researchers.

Their analysis of 21 studies with 2,575 participants shows that cocoa consumption is associated with decreased blood pressure, improved blood vessel health, and improvement in cholesterol levels, among other benefits.

Eric L. Ding, PhD, of Harvard Medical School says the apparent health benefits come from polyphenolic flavonoids in cocoa that have the potential to prevent heart disease. Flavonoids are antioxidants that are commonly found in fruits, vegetables, tea, wine, and coffee.

Cocoa Flavonoids Good for Cholesterolheartchava-copy

In addition to decreasing blood pressure and improving blood vessel health, consumption of flavonoid-rich cocoa decreased “bad” LDL cholesterol among people under age 50, and increased good HDL cholesterol, the analysis showed.

Flavonoid-rich cocoa consumption also was linked to reductions in risk factors for diabetes — a major risk factor itself for cardiovascular disease.

Also, resistance to the hormone insulin, which helps regulate blood sugar, favorably dropped among people who consumed flavonoid-rich cocoa, compared to people in comparison groups.

Further, consumption of flavonoid-rich cocoa did not change triglyceride levels of study participants or make them obeseTriglycerides are a type of blood fat that have been linked to coronary artery disease when levels are elevated above normal.

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Cocoa: a sweet treat for the brain?

There are many reasons why you might want to give someone chocolate on Valentine’s Day. There’s the tradition of it, and the idea of sweets for your sweetheart. Here’s another tempting reason: certain compounds in chocolate, called cocoa flavanols, have recently been linked with improved thinking skills. But will a gift of chocolate boost your valentine’s brain power?

Italian researchers tested the effects of cocoa flavanols in 90 healthy 61- to 85-year-olds whose memories and thinking skills were in good shape for their ages. Participants drank a special brew of cocoa flavanols each day. One group’s brew contained a low amount of cocoa flavanols (48 milligrams [mg] a day), another’s contained a medium amount (520 mg), and the third’s contained a high amount (993 mg).

After eight weeks, people who consumed medium and high amounts of cocoa flavanols every day made significant improvements on tests that measured attention, executive function, and memory. The findings were published online in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

A similar study by these researchers published in 2012 showed that daily consumption of cocoa flavanols was associated with improved thinking skills in older adults who did have thinking problems, a condition called mild cognitive impairment. And both studies found that cocoa flavanols were associated with reduced blood pressure and improved insulin resistance.

What’s the magic?

Flavanols are a type of plant nutrient found in many foods and drinks, such as tea, red wine, blueberries, apples, pears, cherries, and peanuts. They are particularly abundant in the seeds of the cacao tree—cacao beans. Fermenting, drying, and roasting cacao beans yields cocoa powder, which is used to make chocolate.

Flavanols in cocoa have been studied for many years. They have been shown to help lower blood pressure, improve blood flow to the brain and heart, prevent blood clots, and fight cell damage.

How might cocoa flavanols boost thinking skills? This hasn’t been directly studied in humans. “From laboratory and animal studies, we know that flavanols facilitate brain cell connections and survival, and protect brain cells from toxins or the negative effects of inflammation,” says Dr. Miguel Alonso-Alonso, a neuroscientist with a strong interest in nutrition at Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. He wrote an editorial supporting the findings of the Italian study.

Flavanols in chocolate

If you give someone chocolate this Valentine’s Day, are you giving that person cocoa flavanols? Yes, but not nearly as much as the volunteers consumed in the Italian study.

The amount of cocoa used in chocolate varies by manufacturer. And flavanols are often destroyed in the production of chocolate. Dark chocolate has more cocoa and more flavanols than milk chocolate. The amount in dark chocolate can range from 100 mg in 100 grams of chocolate (about 3 ounces) to 2,000 mg.

What you can do

It’s possible to get a megadose of cocoa flavanols from supplements and fortified powders that promise high doses. But consumer groups studying the amounts of cocoa flavanols in products have found that the actual amount in supplements and cocoa powders varies widely. The best way of getting cocoa flavanols is through cocoa powder that is as natural as possible and has not been processed through the Dutch method, which reduces the content of flavanols. Such cocoa powder will be bitter, though.

You may not need a megadose. “The benefits of cocoa flavanols on cardiovascular health are well established, and for the general population a daily intake of 200 mg of cocoa flavanols is starting to emerge as a potential target within the context of a balanced diet,” says Dr. Alonso-Alonso.

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Drinking Cocoa Boosts Cognition and Blood Flow in the Brain

A new study conducted in older adults with hypertension and/or diabetes has found that drinking just two cups a day of cocoa for a month was associated with significant improvements in cognitive function and blood flow in the brain.

Higher levels of flavanols—the antioxidant compounds credited with cocoa and dark chocolate health benefits—made no difference. Overall, however, participants saw brain benefits once they started drinking either flavanol-enhanced cocoa or a lower-flavanol cocoa.

“Researchers are still trying to discover the optimal intake of flavanols,” comments Jeffrey B. Blumberg, PhD, director of Tufts’ HNRCA Antioxidants Research Laboratory. “That dose, along with different durations of consumption, may likely differ depending on factors like age, sex and health status. Also, the possibility should be considered that some of this apparent benefit may be derived from other bioactive compounds in cocoa.”

COCOA BEAN BEFEFITS: The flavanols found in cocoa and dark chocolate are part of a larger group of compounds called flavonoids that occur naturally in plant foods—in this case, the cocoa bean from which cocoa and chocolate are made. Flavanols are also found in red wine and tea. The flavanols in the cocoa bean, however, are a unique mixture of these phytonutrients. Scientists have found that cocoa flavanols positively affect the circulatory system and help maintain the flexibility of arteries. While this is obviously important to heart health, your brain also depends on adequate blood flow to function.

In the new study, published in Neurology, Farzaneh A. Sorond, MD, PhD, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, and colleagues tested the effects of cocoa consumption on 60 volunteers, average age 73. Although none had dementia, 17 suffered from a condition called impaired neurovascular coupling (NVC), a measure of blood flow in the brain as it relates to nerve cells (neurons). Researchers initially tested two levels of flavanols in cocoa, consumed twice a day for 30 days. Participants were encouraged to alter their diets to compensate for the extra calories in the cocoa.

No significant difference was seen between the two types of cocoa, so the results from both groups were merged. Participants free of impaired NVC showed no significant benefits from cocoa consumption.

But the small group of volunteers with impaired NVC saw dramatic changes after just a month of cocoa intake. Neurovascular coupling improved by more than double, and scores on standard cognitive tests jumped 30%.

BETTER BLOOD FLOW: Indications that cocoa flavanols might improve blood-vessel function in the brain were further supported by data from several other studies presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Researchers from the University of Nottingham Medical School in the UK reported findings that cocoa consumption resulted in increased blood flow to areas of the brain.
Lead scientist Ian A. Macdonald, PhD, commented, “This raises the possibility that certain food components like cocoa flavanols may be beneficial in increasing brain blood flow and enhancing brain function among older adults or for others in situations where they may be cognitively impaired, such as fatigue or sleep deprivation.”

Should you start sipping cocoa to support your brain? Tufts’ Blumberg advises, “The available evidence about the potential benefits of cocoa on the brain is far too limited to make any recommendations. However, it is noteworthy that the EU Commission recently approved a health claim that 200 milligrams of cocoa flavanols can ‘help maintain the elasticity of blood vessels, which contributes to normal blood flow.’ This dose is equivalent to 2.5 grams high-flavanol cocoa powder or 10 grams of high-flavanol dark chocolate (about one-fifth of a regular size chocolate bar).


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