Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle are looking at whether the beneficial nutrients found in cocoa beans may support heart health.
Thousands of study participants will consume 750 mg of cocoa flavanols daily (in capsule form), while others will receive a placebo, and scientists will keep track of their heart health for four years. Flavanols are a type of plant nutrient found abundantly in cocoa beans that have been shown to support a healthy heart in several ways.
“In smaller trials [flavanols have] been shown to reduce blood pressure, improve the cholesterol profile, improve sensitivity to insulin and also help the blood vessels to dilate,” said Dr. JoAnn Manson, chief of the Division of Preventive Medicine at Brigham and Women’s.
Cocoa Powder and Gut Bacteria: The Link to Heart Health
In another study, food scientists from Louisiana State University have discovered the beneficial bacteria in our digestive tracts love chocolate just as much as we do—well, cocoa powder, to be exact. When our gut microbes consume cocoa powder, they convert it into heart-healthy compounds that support a healthy inflammatory response, protect our blood vessels from stress, and promote healthy arteries. Cocoa powder contains high amounts of antioxidant polyphenols, known to support cardiovascular health and protect against disease.