Mars welcomes cocoa studies revealing potential cardiovascular health benefits

Mars welcomed initial results from a new supplement and multivitamin outcomes study (Cosmos) published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that reveals cocoa flavanols could potentially reduce cardiovascular risk, writes Neill Barston.

As an ingredient, cocoa is widely used within the confectionery sector for chocolate product ranges, has been increasingly hailed in recent years as holding health benefits, though scientific research has yet to fully establish this as being the case.

As Mars noted, the latest Cosmos cocoa study, led by researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, part of the Harvard Medical School, is a randomised, double blind, placebo-controlled trial involving more than 21,000 generally healthy participants aged 60 and older, conducted over five years. The company investigated if taking a cocoa extract supplement daily reduces cardiovascular disease risk.

Furthermore, the study was supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Pfizer Consumer Healthcare (now part of GSK Consumer Healthcare) and Mars Edge- which provided an investigator-initiated, unrestricted grant for infrastructure support and donated the cocoa extract-containing study pills and packaging.

Speaking about the results of the trials, Howard Sesso, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, believed there were encouraging signs that cocoa could indeed yield health benefits, though its team stressed the initial study was not specifically examining chocolate.

He said: “When we look at the totality of evidence for both the primary and secondary cardiovascular endpoints in Cosmos, we see promising signals that a cocoa flavanol supplement may reduce important cardiovascular events, including death from cardiovascular disease. “These findings merit further investigation to better understand the effects of cocoa flavanols on cardiovascular health.”

His colleague , added: “Previous studies have suggested health benefits of flavanols — compounds in several plant-based foods including cocoa, tea, grapes, and berries. “Cosmos was not a chocolate trial — rather, it’s a rigorous trial of a cocoa extract supplement that contains levels of cocoa flavanols that a person could never realistically consume from chocolate without adding excessive calories, fat, and sugar to their diet.”

The study noted that short-term trials have found cardiovascular benefits for cocoa flavanols on blood pressure and blood vessel dilation. Consequently, Cosmos offered the first opportunity to study if a cocoa flavanol supplement might also lead to longer-term reductions in clinical cardiovascular events. Investigators also looked for reductions in risk of cancer. In addition, the trial was designed to test a common multivitamin in the prevention of cancer and cardiovascular disease.


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