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Cocoa and Heart Health

Cocoa and dark chocolate have been in the news recently with links to them benefiting one’s health. Surely something as yummy as chocolate could not be healthy for you….or could it?? Yes, actually it could. Over 250 studies have been conducted to date many of which have indicated the positive effects cocoa and dark chocolate have had on heart health. The following studies were summarized in a recent newsletter from Hershey Center for Health and Nutrition and illustrated these benefits.

  • A 2011 dose response study in the Journal of Applied Physiology indicated that consuming approximately one tablespoon of natural cocoa improves blood flow by approximately 25 percent in healthy older adults 2 hours after drinking a hot beverage made with natural cocoa. This study was funded by the Center and used natural cocoa.
  • A 2007 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that eating a small piece of dark chocolate (~6 grams, about the amount found in a HERSHEY'S BLISS Dark Chocolate) every day significantly reduced blood pressure after 12 and 18 weeks.

Also included in this newsletter were some fun “did you know?” facts on cocoa and dark chocolate that may be of interest to you and your clients.

  • The heart health benefits come from natural cocoa powder that is produced by pressing most of the fat (cocoa butter) from the cocoa bean.
  • Cocoa beans are not actually beans, they are the seeds of the fruit of the cocoa tree—a concentrated source of nutrients.
  • Cocoa beans are sources of polyphenolic compounds called flavanols, which occur naturally in many fruits and vegetables.
  • Natural cocoa powder is considered a “super fruit” due to its antioxidant activity and flavanol content. Recent research suggests that cocoa powder has significantly higher flavanol levels than other popular super fruit powders such as pomegranate, cranberry, acai and blueberry.
  • Natural cocoa contains more than 700 phytonutrient compounds, some of which research is just beginning to uncover.

Wow!! Cocoa and dark chocolate do have positive effects on one’s heart health. However, be sure to consume them in small amounts (1-ounce/day) since they are calorie and fat rich. Too much of a good thing will not do the heart good.

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