Dating back to the times of the Aztecs and Mayans, cocoa has been touted for its medicinal benefits as a cure or preventative for fever, anemia, chronic fatigue syndrome, cancer, stroke and angina, among others. Nonetheless scientific proof substantiating those claims has proven elusive. Now a new study, sponsored by the Mars candy company and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, will attempt to show that high concentrations of cocoa flavonoids protect against Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) and some cancers. The cocoa bean is a particularly rich source of flavonoids, although most of its benefits are lost during processing of the bean. Both the scope and duration of the new study differ from previous ones – 18,000 men and women taking part over a period of 4 years.
Mars patented a method for extracting concentrated flavonoids from the bean and encapsulating them for easy ingestion. They would be the first to admit they contain far less active ingredient than what will be used in this investigation. They would also admit that in order to reap any flavonoid benefits directly from their candy you would have to eat such ridiculous quantities as to make those efforts futile. The main benefit from flavonoids is in their antioxidative properties. They inhibit the oxidation of LDL/bad cholesterol, and in turn inhibit the formation of artherosclerotic plaque which leads to heart disease. Flavonoids also aid in the regulation of vascular tone and vascular immune response. It is hoped this study will enable researchers to assess more accurately just how therapeutic a flavonoid pill might be as a preventative measure for select diseases.
As we await the appearance of flavonoid pills on our supermarket and pharmacy shelves, we are reminded of the importance of more traditional therapies for preventing CVD such as diet and exercise. We are also reminded that prevention is a team effort involving patient, physician and PTs and OTs. Leave a comment on our Facebook page if you think pills should replace more traditional therapy for CVD and other diseases.