Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States, with about 659,000 people dying each year. Those who are at the highest risk of heart disease have underlying issues such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, diabetes, and obesity. Unhealthy habits such as smoking, excessive drinking, poor diet, and lack of exercise can also lead to potential heart disease.
For those at risk, there are ways to lower the potential, such as changing your eating habits and constantly checking and managing your underlying conditions. Medications and supplements can also act as helpful aids. In fact, a study has shown that cocoa extract supplements are a way to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease deaths.
A study done by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition examined whether cocoa extract supplementation decreases total cardiovascular disease (CVD) among older adults. Researchers included 12,666 women 65 or older, and 8,776 men 60 or older, all of whom were free of major cardiovascular disease and recently diagnosed cancer.
The experiment used a double-blind, two-by-two factorial trial. Cocoa extract supplements were given at random, as were multivitamins for the placebo—a harmless pill prescribed for the psychological benefit to the patient rather than for any physiological effect—from June 2015 through December 2020.
After 3.6 years, it was determined that cocoa extract supplements reduced CVD death in older adults by 27%. It was also determined that potential reductions in total cardiovascular events were supported in per-protocol analysis –an interpretation of randomized clinical trial results that removes data from patients who didn’t comply with the protocol.
Cocoa extract comes from the cacao bean, which you usually find in chocolate. According to the National Cancer Institute, the extract comes with potential benefits such as anti-inflammatory, cardiovascular protection, neuroprotection, cognition enhancing and chemopreventive activities, and vasodilation– the widening of blood vessels as a result of the relaxation of the blood vessel’s muscular walls.
The extract contains flavonoids–a group of plant metabolites thought to provide health benefits through cell signaling pathways and antioxidant effects. The flavonoids include high levels of epicatechin, catechin, procyanidins, and xanthines, such as theobromine.
The National Cancer Institute also suggests consuming cocoa extract causes its effective ingredients to create vasodilation. This, in turn, improves blood flow and decreases blood pressure. The cocoa extract also improves insulin sensitivity, enhances cognition, and decreases the production of pro-inflammatory molecules.
For more information on cardiovascular disease, take a look at Eating Habits to Avoid if You Don’t Want Heart Disease, Says Science.
Kayla Garritano is a Staff Writer for Eat This, Not That! She graduated from Hofstra University, where she majored in Journalism and double minored in Marketing and Creative Writing. Read more