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Cocoa and chocolate flavonoids: Implications for cardiovascular health

  • Francene M Steinberg
    Affiliations
    F. M. Steinberg is an assistant professor and Director, Didactic Program in Dietetics, Department of Nutrition, University of California, Davis, CA; M. M. Bearden is Assistant External Relations Manager, Mars Inc., Hackettstown, NJ; and C. L. Keen is a professor of the Departments of Nutrition and Internal Medicine, University of California, Davis, CA
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  • Monica M Bearden
    Affiliations
    F. M. Steinberg is an assistant professor and Director, Didactic Program in Dietetics, Department of Nutrition, University of California, Davis, CA; M. M. Bearden is Assistant External Relations Manager, Mars Inc., Hackettstown, NJ; and C. L. Keen is a professor of the Departments of Nutrition and Internal Medicine, University of California, Davis, CA
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  • Carl L Keen
    Correspondence
    Address correspondence to: Francene M. Steinberg, PhD, RD, Assistant Professor and Director, Didactic Program in Dietetics, Department of Nutrition, University of California, One Shields Ave., Davis, CA 95616-8966
    Affiliations
    F. M. Steinberg is an assistant professor and Director, Didactic Program in Dietetics, Department of Nutrition, University of California, Davis, CA; M. M. Bearden is Assistant External Relations Manager, Mars Inc., Hackettstown, NJ; and C. L. Keen is a professor of the Departments of Nutrition and Internal Medicine, University of California, Davis, CA
    Search for articles by this author

      Abstract

      This paper offers a review of current scientific research regarding the potential cardiovascular health benefits of flavonoids found in cocoa and chocolate. Recent reports indicate that the main flavonoids found in cocoa, flavan-3-ols and their oligomeric derivatives, procyanidins, have a variety of beneficial actions, including antioxidant protection and modulation of vascular homeostasis. These findings are supported by similar research on other flavonoid-rich foods. Other constituents in cocoa and chocolate that may also influence cardiovascular health are briefly reviewed. The lipid content of chocolate is relatively high; however, one third of the lipid in cocoa butter is composed of the fat stearic acid, which exerts a neutral cholesterolemic response in humans. Cocoa and chocolate contribute to trace mineral intake, which is necessary for optimum functioning of all biologic systems and for vascular tone. Thus, multiple components in chocolate, particularly flavonoids, can contribute to the complex interplay of nutrition and health. Applications of this knowledge include recommendations by health professionals to encourage individuals to consume a wide range of phytochemical-rich foods, which can include dark chocolate in moderate amounts. J Am Diet Assoc. 2003;103:215-223.
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      Further reading

        • Valiente C
        Study of the dietary fibre content in cocoa.
        EUR J CLIN NUTR. 1995; 49: S222-S223
        • Lotito SB
        • Actis-Goretta L
        • Renart ML
        • Caligiuri M
        • Rein D
        • Schmitz HH
        • Steinberg FM
        • Keen CL
        • Fraga CG
        Influence of oligomer chain length on the antixidant activity of procyanidins.
        BIOCHEM BIOPHYS RES COMMUN. 2000; 276: 945-951