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Mar 25, 2017 02:44 AM EDT

COSMOS Trial Seeks If Cocoa Is Good For Your Health

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The good news for chocolate lovers is that eating at least 3.5 ounces of chocolates a day seems to indicate lower rates of heart disease than those who shun them.

According to the study published online in the medical journal Heart. Following the health of nearly 21,000 residents of Norfolk, England for 11 years, 12-percent of those who died or developed cardiovascular disease belong to the top tier of chocolate consumers. However, the rate is higher at 17.4-percent for those who did not eat chocolate.

Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital Researchers are conducting an 18,000-person trial in trying to find answers to the age-old question of whether cocoa is good for you. They have initiated the COSMOS trial, which examines whether flavanols in cocoa can shield against conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

The study is also investigating multivitamins and its potential anti-cancer properties. The researchers believe cocoa flavanols appear to be very promising for reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and memory loss, cognitive decline. However, evidence to prove such to date has been inconclusive, Harvard Gazette reported.

The bitter news is that cocoa is a key ingredient subjected to various processing methods that make chocolate an unreliable source of flavanols. Processed chocolate are found to contain enough fat, sugar and calories that will render it unlikely to prescribe to eat more. However, there are capsules and beverages that are high in cocoa flavanols, JoAnn Manson, co-principal investigator of the study said.

The trial is still signing up participants age 60 and over. It may be years away from reaching a conclusion. Accordingly, the difficulty in making dietary recommendations is that consumer products vary. Even products that claim to have high cocoa or cacao content, would still have varying amounts of flavanols due to differences in processing and content of cocoa beans.

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