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New cocoa evidence on why plant foods are beneficial to cardiovascular health

HACKETTSTOWN, NJ (Jan. 16, 2006) While a growing number of studies has shown a link between flavanol-rich cocoa and cardiovascular health, scientists have now substantiated a causal relationship between specific compounds present in cocoa and cardiovascular health. Published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) , this new study identifies the flavanol, (-)epicatechin, as one of the bioactive nutrients in cocoa that can improve the ability of blood vessels to relax.

An international team of scientists from the University of Dusseldorf, Germany; the University of California, Davis; Mars, Incorporated; and Harvard Medical School conducted a series of studies examining the role of specific cocoa flavanols in cardiovascular health.

"Applying accepted causality criteria and gold standard methodologies, we have been able to advance our understanding of the relationship between the intake of certain flavanols present in cocoa, their absorption into the circulation, and their effects on cardiovascular function," said lead author Hagen Schroeter, PhD, faculty member at the University of California, Davis. "This study established direct evidence for the effect of the flavanol(-)epicatechin as a mediator of blood vessel relaxation."

In a randomized, double-blind, cross-over investigation, the researchers provided healthy male participants with a specially prepared cocoa drink that was either high or low in certain cocoa flavanols. Only the group consuming the flavanol-rich cocoa experienced increased blood vessel relaxation. The researchers demonstrated that the relaxation response mediated by cocoa flavanols is dependent on nitric oxide, a key signal released by the inner lining of blood vessels (the endothelium) essential for normal blood vessel function and healthy blood flow.

To provide direct evidence for the specific flavanol in cocoa that is partly responsible for the
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Contact: Elizabeth Schreiber
eschreiber@webershandwick.com
312-988-2324
Weber Shandwick Worldwide
16-Jan-2006


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