While researchers have found that cocoa flavonols in dark chocolate can help improve blood pressure, cholesterol, artery health and the body’s use of insulin, “People eat chocolate because they enjoy it, not because they think it is good for them,” notes Dr. JoAnn Manson, head of preventative medicine at Brigham and Woman’s Hospital in Boston, who is currently conducting a study to see whether the nutrients are effective in preventing heart attacks and strokes along with Howard Sesso at Brigham and Woman’s Hospital and others at Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
The project, which involves 18,000 men and women throughout the country, will attempt to ascertain the preventative properties of chocolate by loading the flavonols into pills (minus the fat and sugar of candy products). A second part of the study will also examine whether multivitamins lower cancer risk in a broad range of the population. While previous studies have “suggested” this benefit, the research generally involved older, healthy males.
Both are being sponsored by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute along with candy maker Mars, Inc. Mars, maker of M & M’s and Snickers, etc., has reportedly patented a process to extract high concentrations of the flavonols from cocoa and pack them into pills.
While Mars (as well as some of its competitors) have already marketed capsules containing the cocoa extract, they contain less active ingredients than those being tested by Manson and her colleagues.