Cacao, Cocoa and Health

Dillinger, T, Barriga, P, et al. Food of the Gods: Cure for Humanity? A Cultural History of the Medicinal and Ritual Use of Chocolate. J Nutr. 130(2057S-72S.

This research has found three consistent roles of cacao which could be identified can be identified: 1) to treat emaciated patients to gain weight; 2) to stimulate nervous systems of apathetic, exhausted or feeble patients; and 3) to improve digestion and elimination where cacao/chocolate countered the effects of stagnant or weak stomachs, stimulated kidneys and improved bowel function. Additional medical complaints treated with chocolate/cacao have included anemia, poor appetite, mental fatigue, poor breast milk production, consumption/tuberculosis, fever, gout, kidney stones, reduced longevity and poor sexual appetite/low virility.


Camps-Bossacoma, M, Massot-Cladera, M, et al. Cocoa Diet and Antibody Immune Response in Preclinical Studies. Front Nutr 4(28. PMC5484773


This was a literature study done to investigate how cocao positively affects the acquired branch of the immune system.  The researchers have concluded that cocoa has potential as a nutraceutical agent in reducing some production of antibodies such as in sesitivities to some allergens.


Dubner, L, Wang, J, et al. Recommendations for Development of New Standardized Forms of Cocoa Breeds and Cocoa Extract Processing for the Prevention of Alzheimer's Disease: Role of Cocoa in Promotion of Cognitive Resilience and Healthy Brain Aging. J Alzheimers Dis 48(4)879-89.

In this review article, the researchers discuss recent strategies designed to clarify the mechanisms by which certain brain-bioavailable, bioactive polyphenols, in particular, flavan-3-ols also known as flavanols, which are highly represented in cocoa extracts, may beneficially influence cognitive deterioration, such as in Alzheimer's Disease while promoting healthy brain aging.  They also shed some light on the importance of the method of extraction of these nutrients form the cacao bean.  


Dugo, L, Belluomo, MG, et al. Effect of Cocoa Polyphenolic Extract on Macrophage Polarization from Proinflammatory M1 to Anti-Inflammatory M2 State. Oxid Med Cell Longev 2017(6293740. PMC5506464


In this study, researchers looked at the potential anti-inflammatory effect of cocoa.  They showed that cocoa polyphenolic extract attenuated in vitro inflammation decreasing M1 macrophage response as demonstrated by a significantly lowered secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Moreover, treatment of M1 macrophages with cocoa polyphenols influences macrophage metabolism by promoting oxidative pathways, thus leading to a significant increase in O2 consumption by mitochondrial complexes as well as a higher production of ATP through oxidative phosphorylation. In conclusion, cocoa polyphenolic extract suppresses inflammation mediated by M1 phenotype and influences macrophage metabolism by promoting oxidative pathways and M2 polarization of active macrophages.


 Goya, L, Martin, MA, et al. Effect of Cocoa and Its Flavonoids on Biomarkers of Inflammation: Studies of Cell Culture, Animals and Humans. Nutrients 8(4)212. PMC4848681


This is an overview looking at the remarkable capacity of cocoa flavanols as antioxidants, as well as its capacity to modulate signaling pathways involved in cellular processes, such as inflammation, metabolism and proliferation.  It also looks at its potential in the prevention of cardiovascular disease and cancer.


Davinelli, S, Corbi, G, et al. Cardioprotection by Cocoa Polyphenols and Omega-3 Fatty Acids: A Disease-Prevention Perspective on Aging-Associated Cardiovascular Risk. J Med Food

The purpose of this review is to summarize the major cardioprotective effects of cocoa and omega-3 fatty acids, providing a scientific rationale for incorporating the combination of these molecules as a nutritional intervention in the prevention of cardiovascular disease. Although several studies have shown the individual cardioprotective nature of these compounds, a combination treatment with cocoa and omega-3 fatty acids may be a promising approach in both prevention and reduction of cardiovascular risk factors associated with aging. Therefore, this article also reviews some of the key studies on the interaction between cocoa and the metabolism of omega-3 fatty acids.