When you bite into a chocolate bar, do you ever say, “It’s a healthy treat!” as an excuse? We’ve all been there! The argument is that chocolate — especially dark chocolate — contains antioxidants. However, the best way to get those antioxidants might not be from candy or truffles, but from a cocoa extract supplement. New research found that cocoa extract correlates with a 27 percent lower risk of death from cardiovascular events like a heart attack or stroke.
To be clear, you never need an excuse for a sweet pick-me-up! But a significant health boost is more likely to come from a concentrated extract.
What is cocoa extract?
According to the National Cancer Institute, cocoa extract is a dietary supplement derived from cacao beans. Research shows that it has potent anti-inflammatory properties, and can improve your cardiovascular health and mental sharpness.
A Closer Look at the Cocoa Extract Study
In this recent study — which was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and known as the Cocoa Supplement and Multivitamin Outcomes Study (COSMOS study) — researchers recruited 21,442 US adults.
Of those volunteers, 12,666 were women aged 65 or older (the remaining 8,776 were men aged 60 or older). None of the participants had cardiovascular disease or a recent cancer diagnosis at the beginning of the study.
From 2015 to 2020, some of the participants had to regularly take a cocoa extract supplement (the dosage was 500 milligrams). Others took a placebo.
When the researchers followed up with the participants, they learned that 866 participants had suffered from a cardiovascular event. Out of those 866, 410 participants had taken the cocoa extract, and 456 had taken the placebo.
These results weren’t significant; the researchers concluded that cocoa extract didn’t significantly reduce the number of cardiovascular events among the participants. However, it did reduce the risk of cardiovascular death (death caused by a heart attack, stroke, or other event) by 27 percent.
What does this mean for you?
Should you begin eating as much cocoa as possible to get these potential benefits? Not quite.
“COSMOS was not a chocolate trial,” said JoAnn Manson, MD, DrPH, from the Division of Preventive Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in a press release. “Rather, it’s a rigorous trial of a cocoa extract supplement. [The supplement] contains levels of cocoa flavanols [anti-inflammatory plant compounds] that a person could never realistically consume from chocolate without adding excessive calories, fat, and sugar to their diet.”
So, adding a cocoa supplement to your diet might not be a bad idea. But how much should you take? Depending on the brand you buy, you will be instructed to take one to two capsules daily.
Note that each capsule will have a certain amount of naturally occurring caffeine. So, it might be best to take these well before bedtime.
Just remember: Speak to your doctor before trying a new supplement! This is particularly important if you are currently on any medications or undergoing any medical treatments. For a brand we like, try CocoaVia Cardio Health Capsules (Buy from Cocoa Via, $39.97).
Also, the best way to reduce your risk of a cardiovascular event is to commit to a healthy lifestyle. Walking every day can help you reach your fitness goals and boost your heart health, while a diet high in fruits, veggies, and whole grains can help you improve your cholesterol and blood sugar levels. It only takes one step at a time!
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