Cocoa extracts may benefit cholesterol levels: Study

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Cocoa extracts may benefit cholesterol levels: Study

Related tags Cocoa powder Cardiovascular disease Atherosclerosis

A combination of cocoa and skimmed milk may beneficially affect cholesterol levels in the blood, according to new data from Spain.

Daily consumption of 40 grams of cocoa powder and 500 mL of skimmed milk for four weeks was associated with increases in HDL (good) cholesterol levels, and reductions in levels of oxidized LDL (bad) cholesterol, scientists from the University of Barcelona report.

“The results of this study provide further evidence for recommending regular consumption of cocoa as a useful tool against risk factors for [coronary heart disease],”​ they wrote in Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases​.

Choc-full of goodness?

The health benefits of polyphenols from cocoa have been gathering increasing column inches in the national media. To date studies have reported potential benefits for cardiovascular health, skin health, and even brain health.

The majority of science into the potential benefits of cocoa have revolved around cardiovascular benefits of the flavanols (also known as flavan-3-ols or catechins), and particularly the monomeric flavanol (-)epicatechin.

Most of the globe’s confectionery giants have spent R&D dollars on exploring the potential health benefits of cocoa, including Mars, Nestlé, and Hershey.

The new study used cocoa from Spanish food company Nutrexpa.

Study details

The Barcelona-based scientists recruited 42 volunteers with a mean age of 70 to participate in their randomized, crossover feeding trial. All the participants received 500 mL of skimmed milk/day with or without 40g of cocoa powder for 4 weeks. The 40 grams of cocoa powder provided 495.2 milligrams of polyphenols and 425.7 milligrams of proanthocyanidins.

At the end of the study the researchers found that milk plus cocoa was associated with a 5 percent increase in HDL cholesterol levels, compared to only milk.

In addition, cocoa plus milk was associated with a 14 percent reduction in oxidized LDL cholesterol levels, compared to milk only.


Commenting on the potential mechanism of action, the researchers note that the polyphenols in cocoa may bind to LDL particles and therefore prevent them from being oxidized.

Concerning the increase in HDL, they note that the mechanism remains to be elucidated, but it may be related to polyphenols boosting the production of a molecule called apolipoprotein (Apo) A1, which is the main protein component of HDL.

Source: Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1016/j.numecd.2011.02.001
“Regular consumption of cocoa powder with milk increases HDL cholesterol and reduces oxidized LDL levels in subjects at high-risk of cardiovascular disease”
Authors: N. Khan, M. Monagas, C. Andres-Lacueva, R. Casas, M. Urpí-Sardà, R.M. Lamuela-Raventós, R. Estruch

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