Chocolate fanatics out there, rejoice, because recent studies have shown that compounds present in cocoa, commonly known as flavanols might benefit cardiovascular health. A systematic review and meta-evaluation of 19 randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of cocoa consumption exhibits some proof that indeed consuming cocoa can be good for your heart.
This study, published in the Journal of Nutrition is an assessment of the mixed evidence from all 19 RCTs, which talked about whether or not consumption of flavanol-rich cocoa products can improve the levels of circulating biomarkers of cardiometabolic health in comparison with placebos comntaining negligible cocoa flavanol content. Around 1,139 volunteers participated in these trials.
According to corresponding author Dr. Simin Liu, professor and director of the Center for Global Cardiometabolic Health at Brown University who worked with epidemiology graduate student and lead author Xiaochen Lin, “Our meta-analysis of RCTs characterizes how cocoa flavanols affect cardiometabolic biomarkers, providing guidance in designing large, definitive prevention trials against diabetes and cardiovascular disease in future work. We found that cocoa flavanol intake may reduce dyslipidemia (elevated triglycerides), insulin resistance and systemic inflammation, which are all major subclinical risk factors for cardiometabolic diseases.”
According to Liu, there were some limitations in the trials. All studies were small and of quick duration. And also, not all the biomarkers which were tracked in these trials changed for the better, and none of the trials were designed to know whether cocoa flavanol consumption leads to reduced cases of coronary heart disease or type 2 diabetes.
However considering that some of these heterogeneities were present throughout the reports, the group’s meta-analysis summarizing results from 19 trials observed potential beneficial results of flavanol-rich cocoa on cardiometabolic wellness. There have been small-to-modest changes however they were statistically tremendous improvements among people who ate flavanol-rich cocoa product as compared to those who didn’t.
The greatest results were visible among volunteers who ate between 200 and 600 milligrams of flavanols a day, which was based on their cocoa consumption. They noticed huge declines in blood glucose and insulin, as well as another indicator of insulin resistance called HOMA-IR.
They also saw an increase in “good,” or HDL cholesterol. Those who took higher doses had decreasing insulin resistance and a decrease in triglycerides; however they did not observe an increase in HDL. Those who consumed lower doses of flavanols only noticed a huge HDL improvement.
Lin remarked that the advantages were not dependent on the form of flavanol-rich cocoa taken, whether it was dark chocolate or a chocolate drink. He added, “The treatment groups of the trials included in our meta-analysis are primarily dark chocolate — a few were using cocoa powder-based beverages. Therefore, the findings from the current study apparently shouldn’t be generalized to different sorts of chocolate candies or white chocolates, of which the content of sugar/food additives could be substantially higher than that of the dark chocolate.”
The authors hence concluded, “Our study highlights the urgent need for large, long-term RCTs that improve our understanding of how the short-term benefits of cocoa flavanol intake on cardiometabolic biomarkers may be translated into clinical outcomes.”