How Cocoa Flavanols Can Support Our Health
For over 20 years, Mars has been investigating cocoa flavanols, a group of bioactive compounds that are naturally present in cocoa. These natural compounds are found in certain foods like blueberries, grapes, apples, and tea and various other fruit and vegetables. Raw cocoa has a particular mixture of these compounds, known as cocoa flavanols.
Why Are Cocoa Flavanols So Exciting to Us?
Research shows these compounds have a wide range of possible health benefits we think are well worth exploring. So, together with a network of world-class research partners, we have spent the past two decades thoroughly investigating the role cocoa flavanols can play in maintaining our health. Working with our partners, we have published over 150 scientific papers on the topic of cocoa flavanols covering their chemistry, biochemistry and possible health applications.
Scientific research now shows that consumption of cocoa flavanols helps support the function of our blood vessels and can positively impact a number of other markers of cardiovascular health, like blood pressure. A growing body of evidence also shows cocoa flavanols can support the function of our blood vessels by increasing the level of nitric oxide in the body. Nitric oxide plays a critical role in the function and health of our vascular system. By increasing nitric oxide levels, cocoa flavanols support our blood vessels by improving their elasticity, which in turn supports cardiovascular health.
It’s important to note the difference between cocoa and chocolate. Cocoa is a rich source of these flavanols, but chocolate is not. In fact, cocoa flavanols are often destroyed during chocolate processing. So while chocolate can contain cocoa flavanols, it’s not a reliable source of these compounds.
It won’t come as a surprise to know that at Mars we love chocolate, but as much as we love it, chocolate should be considered a treat, and should not be recommended as a food that supports health. At Mars, we are very clear that our cocoa flavanols research is not about chocolate. Because of this, we stopped researching the health benefits of chocolate over 10 years ago.
We’re still interested in the flavanols in cocoa. What we know today is that flavanols have notable cardiovascular health benefits, but we want to definitively answer what role cocoa flavanols play in maintaining our health.
That’s why we partnered with others to undertake the largest clinical dietary intervention trial of its kind to investigate at scale cocoa flavanols and their health effects. The Cocoa Supplement and Multivitamin Outcomes Study is underway, with over 21,000 healthy older adults from across the United States participating during a five-year period. COSMOS is a public-private partnership between the Brigham and Women's Hospital of Harvard Medical School, the Seattle-based Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, the National Institutes of Health, Pfizer, Inc. and Mars, Inc.
COSMOS is investigating whether taking a daily cocoa flavanol supplement of reduces the risk of developing a range of health issues, including strokes, heart disease and cancer. Results are expected in mid-2021 and should reveal definitive answers about the cardiovascular benefits of flavanols.
At Edge, we’re continuing to learn and develop our partnership-led approach to cocoa flavanol research. We’re proud of the journey so far, and we look forward to contributing to this research in the future. We will continue to translate two decades of scientific insights into new products that can help consumers better their health.
To find out more about our research into cocoa flavanols, visit the Mars Edge Flavanol Science Hub.