Posted on Sep 06, 2011, 6 a.m.
Spanish team reveals that a cocoa-rich diet significantly reduces the activation of NF-kappaB, a protein that plays a key role in the inflammatory process.
Polyphenols from cocoa have been associated with a wide range of benefits -- impacting cardiovascular, brain, and skin health. The predominant mechanism purported to confer these benefits relates to the flavanols – a potent type of antioxidant -- found abundantly in cocoa. Emilio Sacanella, from Barcelona’s Hospital Clinic (Spain), and colleagues recruited 18 healthy subjects, ages 19 to 49 years, and randomly assigned each to one of three groups: the first group received 40 grams of cocoa powder with milk (providing 62.1 mg of flavanols and 3.2 mgs of flavonols per day; the second group received the same cocoa dose with water (instead of milk); and the third group received only milk. After three weeks of consumption, the team found that levels of NF-kappaB, a protein that plays a key role in the inflammatory process, decreased significantly among those subjects in the cocoa powder and water group; levels were unchanged in the cocoa with milk group, and levels increased in the milk group. As well, the team observed that both cocoa groups experienced decreases in levels of intercellular adhesion molecule 1 (ICAM-1), which is thought to contribute to the early development of atherosclerosis. The researchers submit that: “The anti-inflammatory effect of cocoa intake may depend on the bioavailability of bioactive compounds and may be mediated at least in part by the modulation of [NF-kappaB] activation and downstream molecules reinforcing the link between cocoa intake and health.”
M. Vazquez-Agell, M. Urpi-Sarda, E. Sacanella, S. Camino-Lopez, G. Chiva-Blanch, V. Llorente-Cortes, E. Tobias, et al. “Cocoa consumption reduces NF-[kappa]B activation in peripheral blood mononuclear cells in humans.” Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases, 6 August 2011.