Thursday, March 29, 2007

Health Benefits of Cocoa

According to Dr Norman Hollenberg, of Harvard Medical School, the Kuna people of Panama have extremely low rates of stroke, heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Of course that doesn't really help me because, as you might have guessed, I'm not an Indigenous Panamanian . What's interesting about Hellenberg's research is that the death rates rise for Kuna populations who have migrated to mainland Panama, indicating an environmental mechanism rather than a genetic one. (BBC News report)

The suspected cause is something called a flavonoid, an anti-oxidant, high levels of which are found in natural cocoa (also in citrus fruits, green tea, red red wine). While the health benefits of anti-oxidants have been widely publicized, recent research has shed some light on how and what specific types of flavanoids effect health. So far, both the biochemical studies and the observational ones seem to support the hypothesis that the specific flavanoids in cocoa can have dramatic health benefits.

So we should all go get some cocoa powder and start drinking cocoa drink 5 times a day, right? Well, not quite. The cocoa which the Kuna people drink is flavanol-rich, while the cocoa available in the US is generally low in flavanoids, a consequence of processing techniques. Mars Inc. has developed a product called Cocoapro which is made using a proprietary processing method which apparently produces flavanol-rich cocoa. Unfortunately, this is not slave-labor free, so for now you'll have to choose between social justice and health benefits.


Donnie said...

...or pop pills! Live the lifestyle of the future by consuming all essential nutrients in tablet form. (You will have to live in a minimalist white/light gray environment and wear some kind of bland-colored uniform too.)

I thought this article was funny. I agree with the point of the article - life is more fun to enjoy the drink than get the full health benefits through a tablet...

dave hiller said...

How helpful do these sorts of things have to be before they're really worth worrying about? I generally don't micromanage my diet, especially when there's some uncertainty in the benefits (as is often the case). I wonder if that's the right decision (and I realize it's a bit odd since I'm willing to micromanage some parts of my life and not others).

Alan Rosenwinkel said...

I just try to make small adjustments to my diet based on what I know, like favoring Cocoapro over Hersheys and Equal over the pink crap.

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