Cocoa-based supplements cuts risk of dying from heart disease by THIRD

Cocoa supplement made by chocolate giant Mars may cut risk of over-60s dying from heart disease by a THIRD, study claims… but you’d have to eat 25 bars of Dairy Milk to reap same benefits

  • Study of 21,000 people found flavanol supplements cut heart disease by third
  • The compounds are found in cocoa and berries and may improve blood pressure
  • Researchers say findings shows ‘promising signals’ cocoa flavanol cut deaths

A cocoa supplement made by Mars may cut the risk of dying from heart disease, if research is to be believed. 

The confectionary giant’s capsules — yet to be released or even named — were tested on 21,000 over-60s.

Results showed participants given the cocoa-extract were 27 per cent less likely to die of heart disease.

But the supplement had no noticeable effect on stopping people being struck down with the killer disorder in the first place.

Experts claim the benefits derive from cocoa being abundant in flavonols, powerful compounds linked to an array of health benefits.

Previous studies have suggested their consumption may lower blood pressure and widen blood vessels. 

Harvard University researchers, who carried out the trial, warned people could not get the same health benefits simply from eating chocolate.  

Earlier studies have suggested flavanols — compounds found in plant-based food, including cocoa, tea and berries — improve blood pressure and blood vessel dilation. Pictured: sources of flavanols

Flavanols are a group of molecules which occur naturally in fruit and vegetables

They are found in many plant-based foods and drinks, such as tea, red wine, blueberries, apples, pears, cherries and peanuts.

They are particularly abundant in the seeds of the cacao tree — cacao beans.

Fermenting, drying, and roasting cacao beans yields cocoa powder, which is used to make chocolate.

Flavanols in cocoa have been shown to help lower blood pressure, improve blood flow to the brain and heart, prevent blood clots, and fight cell damage.

Source: Harvard Medical School

Participants were given 500mg of cocoa flavanols per day through a supplement. 

A person would need to eat more than 1,100g of milk chocolate — around 25 bars of Dairy Milk — to achieve the same amount.

The trial, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, split participants into four groups.

They were either given daily capsules that contained cocoa flavanols, a multivitamin tablet, neither, or both. 

Experts primarily wanted to determine whether the pills reduced cases of heart and circulatory fatalities and cancer.

Results from the three-and-a-half year study, funded by Mars and GSK, showed the multivitamin group were also slightly less likely to die from heart disease. 

But the benefits weren’t considered significant, unlike the cocoa supplement group. 

Participants who adhered to the daily regime were 39 per cent less likely to die of heart disease over the study period.

However, the researchers admitted that further studies are needed to confirm their findings. 

Dr Howard Sesso, an epidemiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital who led the study, said the results show ‘promising signals that a cocoa flavanol supplement may reduce cardiovascular events and deaths.

‘Our message for consumers is to eat a healthy, balanced diet, rich in natural food sources of flavanols,’ he added.  

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