Cocoa and chocolate


Everyone loves the taste of chocolate and cocoa, but most people don’t realize the benefits of this article health. Cocoa contains antioxidant polyphenols, the consumption of which can improve cardiovascular health, protect the brain, and improve skin health. Read this publication to learn more about the health benefits of cocoa.

What is cocoa?

For hundreds of years, cocoa has been used in medicine all over the world. Cocoa originated in the Americas and spread to Europe the rest of the world over time. Cocoa is used to reduce weight gain, reduce fatigue, activate the nervous system and improve digestive function.

Interestingly, Panama is known for its cocoa consumption, its population is healthy and has a low incidence of heart disease.

Comes cocoa of cereals produced by the cacao tree contains many active ingredients such as:

Polyphenols: they are antioxidant compounds that protect against bacteria and ultraviolet rays. The most abundant types of polyphenols in cocoa are flavonoids, catechins, and epicatechins.

Theobromine: a plant-derived compound that has potential benefits for heart, respiratory and oral health.

Minerals: the most abundant are magnesium, copper and iron, all of which are important for general health and body function.

Cocoa butter:

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

Cocoa butter does not contain polyphenols and therefore does not have the same potential health benefits as cocoa.

Mechanisms of action:

Plan (A Class of flavonoids) found in cocoa increase the production of nitric oxide (NO) by blood vessels, which leads to expand and increase blood flow.

Cocoa exerts its antioxidant properties due to flavanols that reduce the production of free radicals and prevent oxidative damage.

Epicatechin and catechin cross the blood-brain barrier and mediate in certain areas of the brain, potentially providing protection to this organ and improving cognitive function.

Flavanol also slows down the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates, helping to balance glucose levels in the body.

Cocoa health benefits:

1. The Prevention of heart disease

The flavonoids contained in cocoa prevent blockage of blood vessels by improving their functions, reducing blood clotting and lowering blood pressure.

A meta-analysis of 24 trials and more than 1, 100 people found that cocoa consumption reduced high blood pressure, insulin resistance, blood lipid profile and vascular function, all risk factors for heart disease.

Another meta-analysis of 7 studies and about 115, 000 people linked dark chocolate consumption to an overall 37% reduction in heart disease rates. More importantly, a recent meta-analysis of 23 studies and more than 405, 000 people indicated that consumption should be moderate: more than 100 grams / week may be less effective and add the negative effects of high sugar intake.

Similarly, I found 3 analyses meta-analysis of 25 studies, more than 610.000 people a decrease in the incidence of coronary heart disease heart failure heart attack (myocardial infarction) among those who consume moderate amounts of chocolate is dark.

In contrast, two studies of more than 72, 000 people and a meta-analysis of 5 studies and more than 180, 000 people failed to link chocolate consumption to arrhythmias (atrial fibrillation).

A study of more than 2,000 people with hypertension and metabolic syndrome found that cocoa supplements are a cost-effective way to reduce cardiovascular events.

In general, evidence suggests that the benefits of cocoa may help prevent heart disease such as coronary heart disease, heart failure or heart attack by lowering blood pressure, blood clotting, blood lipid levels and insulin resistance. Although not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for this purpose, you can discuss them with your doctor if may help you as a supplementary. Most importantly, never take it instead of what your doctor recommends and prescribes and remember that commercial chocolate may have negative effects due to its high sugar and fat content.

 2. The benefits of cocoa in lowering blood pressure

Cocoa consumption has been shown to lower blood pressure by dilating blood vessels and protecting against the harmful effects of oxidative damage (such as reducing vascular function and promoting arterial occlusion).

A study of 15 healthy people showed that the higher the concentration of flavanol, the greater the effect of cocoa in lowering blood pressure. Those who ate chocolate-dark, which contains high levels of flavonols, the Saw has a much greater effect than those who ate white chocolate (without flavonols).

A diet rich in flavonoids (from dark chocolate, red apples, green tea) as an additional component of blood pressure lowering drugs, improved blood pressure (and other heart disease risk factors such as blood fat, obesity, and infections) in a clinical trial on 79 people with hypertension.

Chocolate and other cocoa products were found to lower blood pressure in two color analyses from 25 clinical trials.

A meta-analysis of 35 trials showed that those who consumed large amounts of flavanols experienced a greater drop in blood pressure than those who ate little or never consumed flavanols.

Again, the evidence suggests that cocoa may help lower blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure, you may discuss with your doctor whether including cocoa in your diet may help. Remember that cocoa should only be used as an addition to your treatment regimen and not instead of approved drugs to lower blood pressure.

3. Antioxidants

Are polyphenols found in cocoa are antioxidants that prevent free radicals from damaging the cells. Due to the abundance of cocoa in these compounds, cocoa has a higher antioxidant capacity than green and black tea.

In a clinical trial of 48 healthy people, eating flavanol-rich cocoa improved the antioxidant status (by increasing glutathione levels and reducing signs of oxidative damage such as oxidized LDL and isoform fatty acids), especially at high doses. In another experiment on 100 men, cocoa protects blood fat from oxidation.

Dark chocolate, in combination with astaxanthin, reduced signs of oxidative stress (oxidative LDL and MDA) in another trial on 32 people.

In a clinical trial of 38 people with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, dark chocolate prevented the production of free radicals by blocking an enzyme that produces them (NOX2).

In two small trials on 36 athletes, cocoa flavanol increased antioxidant capacity before and during exercise.

In short, the evidence suggests that the polyphenols contained in cocoa may be antioxidants in humans. You can discuss with your doctor how to use cocoa to improve your antioxidant status.

4. Lowering cholesterol

A study of 48 people at risk of heart disease and another study of 25 people with normal or slightly elevated cholesterol showed that eating cocoa powder on a regular basis resulted in lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and increased good cholesterol.

In line with this, found a meta-analysis of ten clinical trials and 320 people to chocolate dark reduced cholesterol low-density lipoprotein but did not have significant impact on cholesterol high-density lipoprotein and triglycerides.

However, a meta-analysis of eight trials and more than 200 people found that the reduction was dose-independent and that cocoa was ineffective in healthy people.

And in mice, cocoa butter reduced harmful cholesterol.

Although there is little evidence, evidence suggests that cocoa may help lower “bad” cholesterol in people with high blood lipid levels. You can use it as an addition to your treatment regimen if your doctor decides it may be useful in your case. Most importantly, never use it to do instead of what your doctor recommends or prescribes it.

5. Cognitive function

Flavonoids, especially catechins and epicatechins, may play a role in improving brain health for their functions, creating new brain cells, and even reversing brain damage in conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.

These compounds cross the blood-brain barrier and modulate in areas of the brain responsible for memory and learning, where most neurodegeneration occurs.

In 3 clinical trials on more than 100 healthy adults, acute consumption of cocoa improved working memory, spatial memory and visual search efficiency. However, dark chocolate only improved mood but had no effect on cognition in another experiment on 72 middle-aged people.

Cocoa also maintained cognitive decline in the elderly by maintaining the integrity of the white matter and protecting the area of the brain whose decrease is associated with memory impairment in the gyrus of the elderly.

Showed three small studies conducted on 30 volunteers that flavanol cocoa increases blood flow in the brain have both young and elderly people.

Again, the evidence is limited to that flavonoids found in cocoa may improve some cognitive functions and help prevent cognitive decline in the elderly. Further clinical research should determine how to use it for this purpose.

Cocoa benefits that need more evidence:

The following benefits of cocoa are supported only by limited, low-quality clinical studies. There is insufficient evidence to support the use of cocoa for any of the uses listed below. Remember to talk with your doctor before taking cocoa for any health condition. You should never use it as a substitute for approved medical treatments.

1. Benefits of cocoa for the skin

By its antioxidant properties, the flavanols contained in cocoa are the ingredients most relevant to skin health.

A cocoa drink containing 320 grams of flavanol improves skin elasticity and reduces wrinkles in an experiment on 64 women.

Similarly, flavanol-rich cocoa improves blood circulation and partially reflects skin damage caused by smoking in a small experiment conducted on 11 smokers.

High-flavanol cocoa reduced skin sensitivity to redness caused by UV rays in two clinical trials on 54 healthy people. However, he was ineffective in another trial on 33 people.

In another study of 10 healthy women, cocoa flavanol increased blood circulation and oxygen concentration in the skin.

In human skin explants, cocoa butter moderately increased skin thickness and collagen density. 

Although the results are promising, however, the evidence is insufficient to support the use of cocoa to promote healthy skin. Larger and more powerful clinical trials are needed.

2. Benefits of cocoa to improve mood

In two clinical trials on 120 healthy people, consumption of dark chocolate or cocoa boosted positive mood. Chocolate was more effective when combined with mindfulness intervention in another experiment on more than 250 people.

In another experiment conducted on 48 people, Chocolate improved the negative mood caused by experiments.

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