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Heart-healthy compound in chocolate identified

In a multifaceted study involving the Kuna Indians of Panama, an international team of scientists has pinpointed a chemical compound that is, in part, responsible, for the heart-healthy benefits of certain cocoas and some chocolate products.

The researchers, who are from the University of California, Davis; the Heinrich-Heine University of Duesseldorf, Germany; and Harvard Medical School, hope the findings will lead to new dietary or medicinal methods for improving and maintaining cardiovascular health.

The study showed that epicatechin, one of a group of chemicals known as flavanols, was directly linked to improved circulation and other hallmarks of cardiovascular health. Findings of the study are reported in the Jan. 16 online issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Although previous studies strongly indicated that some flavanol-rich foods, such as wine, tea and cocoa can offer cardiovascular health benefits, we have been able to demonstrate a direct relationship between the intake of certain flavanols present in cocoa, their absorption into the circulation and their effects on cardiovascular function in humans," said UC Davis biochemist Hagen Schroeter, who co-authored the paper along with cardiologist Christian Heiss of the Heinrich-Heine University.

"The results of this study provide direct proof that epicatechin is, at least in part, responsible for the beneficial vascular effects that are observed after the consumption of certain flavanol-rich cocoas," Schroeter said.

Key to the study were volunteers from the Kuna Indians, who live on the San Blas islands off the coast of Panama. High blood pressure and other signs of cardiovascular disease are rare among the island-dwelling Kuna, who are also known to consume large amounts of flavanol-rich cocoa -- three to four cups per day. However, previous studies carried out by Norman Hollenberg's research team at Harvard Medical School have found that Kuna w
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Source:University of California - Davis


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