Cocoa products may offer fiber source for consumers

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Cocoa products may offer fiber source for consumers
Fiber-rich cocoa products may help consumers hit recommended levels and improve their bowel habits, says a new study.

Cocoa products enriched with cocoa bran led to increased fiber intakes and increased the frequency of bowel movements, while also lowering the feeling of constipation, according to findings published in Nutrition & Metabolism​.

“The regular addition of two servings of cocoa products, providing 2.26 and 6.60 g of total non-starch polysaccharides per day, to a typical Spanish diet is an efficacious alternative to increase fiber intake to recommended levels without leading to an increase in body weight when consumed during 4 weeks,”​ reported researchers from the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC).

“Moreover, the cocoa product enriched with fiber at 22.0% reduces the time to have a bowel movement and increases the number of daily bowel movements, without inducing adverse gastrointestinal symptoms such as abdominal pain or bloating or leading to having diarrhea, only flatulence increases.”

The study used products formulated by Nutrexpa S. L., and the company also funded the study.

Fiber benefits

Increased intakes of fiber have been linked to a range of health benefits. Researchers from the US National Cancer Institute reported last year that increased dietary intakes of fiber are associated with lower risks of dying from cardiovascular, infectious, and respiratory diseases (Archives of Internal Medicine​, doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2011.18).

The message has filtered through to consumers, with a 2008 International Food Information Council survey reporting that 77% of people are proactively trying to consume additional fiber.

Despite such good intentions, however, many Americans only achieve about 50% of their recommended amount of 25 to 30 grams of fiber daily.

Study details

If the Spanish data can be reproduced in other populations it may offer a novel method for increasing fiber intake.  

The Spanish researchers recruited 44 health men and women aged between 18 and 55 to participate in their randomized, crossover, single-blind trial.  

Participants were randomized to consume cocoa products with 2.26 or 6.60 grams per day of non-starch polysaccharides for four weeks. A three-week washout period followed the first stage of intervention and the participants were then switched over to the other group.

Results showed that both products increased fiber intakes, but only the higher dose cocoa product influenced bowel habits.

In addition, the feeling of constipation decreased significantly, with no adverse gastrointestinal symptoms, said the researchers.

“In order to obtain more accurate information on the effects of food on bowel habits, it is recommended to use both subjective self-reported questionnaires as well as objective measurements,”​ they concluded.

Source: Nutrition & Metabolism
2012, 9:33, doi:10.1186/1743-7075-9-33
“Effects of regularly consuming dietary fibre rich soluble cocoa products on bowel habits in healthy subjects: a free-living, two-stage, randomized, crossover, single-blind intervention”
Authors: B. Sarria, S. Martinez-Lopez, A. Fernandez-Espinosa, M. Gomez-Juaristi, L. Goya, R. Mateos, L. Bravo

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