New Study Finds Cocoa Flavanols May Lower Blood Pressure, Improve Insulin Response

HACKETTSTOWN, N.J., March 24, 2005 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- A new study from Italy's University of L'Aquila, published in this month's American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, is consistent with previous research that suggests that naturally occurring flavanol compounds found in certain cocoa and chocolates may provide heart health benefits.

Yet, not all chocolate is created equal. In many cases, the science is often translated to say simply that all dark chocolate contains these potentially heart-healthy compounds. But in fact, it is the processing of the chocolate that has the greatest impact on the presence of the flavanol compounds in the finished chocolate.

"While the University's results are exciting -- especially for chocolate lovers -- not all chocolate contains high levels of flavanols, which impart these potential heart healthy benefits," says Dr. Catherine Kwik-Uribe, PhD, Research Chemist for Mars, Incorporated, the world leader in cocoa science. "In fact, only certain cocoas and chocolates are specially processed to retain much of the flavanols naturally occurring in cocoa beans."

Based on 15 years of research, Mars has developed the only patented and proprietary Cocoapro(R) cocoa process to preserve these important cocoa flavanols that often are destroyed during standard processing. This unique process, used in the chocolate in a new Mars cocoa-based snack bar called CocoaVia(R), helps retain the natural goodness of the cocoa bean while keeping the pleasurable taste characteristics of chocolate. Developing research suggests that these flavanols may help in the maintenance of heart health, healthy blood flow and improved elasticity in blood vessels.

While research is promising, Mars Nutrition Communications Director Marlene Machut cautions, "It's not about eating more chocolate, but rather about working flavanol-rich foods into an overall healthy, balanced diet. First start with plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and then you may be able to fit in an 80-calorie CocoaVia(R) Bar."

In addition, Mars developed a method to determine the amount and type of flavanols that are found in certain foods. The United States Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) has since adopted and adapted the Mars analytical methodology and is proceeding to develop a database to identify flavanol-rich foods and quantify the specific flavanol content found in these foods. The USDA flavanol database, displayed as a scientific poster, was presented in Helsinki in August 2004, with a specific table prepared to compare a variety of cocoas and chocolates. The table revealed that Mars products such as the CocoaVia(R) Bar, Dove(R) Dark Chocolate and Cocoapro(R) cocoa powder rank much higher in flavanol content than the average levels appearing in comparable food categories.

The Italian study suggests that consuming flavanol-rich chocolate can decrease systolic blood pressure, the peak blood pressure which occurs when the heart pumps blood into the arteries, and improve insulin sensitivity in healthy people. These findings are consistent with earlier studies identifying similar heart health benefits of cocoa flavanols.

"It's understandable that everyone wants to share in the good news when research like this is announced, but the important thing to remember is that not all cocoa and chocolate share high flavanol levels which is where we are seeing the potential benefits for cardiovascular health," says Kwik-Uribe.

Mars, Incorporated is one of the world's top producers of chocolate, and with a strong commitment to health research, is the leader in the science of cocoa, chocolate and health. Mars uses patented and proprietary methods of processing cocoa beans to retain as much of their naturally occurring flavanols as possible, marking these products with the Cocoapro(R) seal, a hand holding a cocoa bean to signify the careful handling. For more information please visit or .

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