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Cocoa May Improve Cardiometabolic Health

Cardiometabolic risk refers to the risk of having heart disease, diabetes or a stroke. A recent study suggests that the flavanols in cocoa products may help enhance cardiometabolic health by improving lipid metabolism, insulin resistance, and systemic inflammation.

The researchers examined 19 randomized controlled trials that looked at the effects of cocoa flavanols on biomarkers related to vascular disease. They found that cocoa flavanol intake was associated with a 0.10 nmol/L reduction in triglycerides and a 0.06 nmol/L boost in good cholesterol, when compared with control groups. They also noted a -2.33 ulU/mL reduction in fasting insulin concentrations in the cocoa flavanol groups when compared with the placebo.

The most significant effects were seen in the participants who consumed 200 to 600 mg of flavanols per day. The participants who consumed lower doses saw only benefits in boosting good cholesterol, while the ones consuming higher amounts saw more significant drops in triglyceride levels and better insulin resistance. The results were not affected by sex, age, or existing comorbidities. The form in which the flavanols were ingested did not affect the results either.

Researchers from Brown University, Oxford College of Emory University, Harvard Medical School, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and Warren Alpert Medical School and Rhode Island Hospital conducted the study. It was published online ahead of print on September 28, 2106, in the American Society for Nutrition.

Flavanols are the naturally occurring antioxidants found in cocoa which have previously been shown to decrease inflammation, protect DNA from damage and improve heart and brain health by increasing blood flow.

It is important to note that not all cocoa products are created equal: chocolates with a higher percentage of cocoa tend to be much healthier. This is because darker chocolate has higher levels of flavanols and also because milk chocolates are higher in fat and, often, sugar content.

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