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Chocolate at heart: the anti-inflammatory impact of cocoa flavanols.
Mol Nutr Food Res. 2008 Nov;52(11):1340-8., Selmi C, Cocchi CA, Lanfredini M, Keen CL, Gershwin ME.
Chronic and acute inflammation underlies the molecular basis of atherosclerosis. Cocoa-based products are among the richest functional foods based upon flavanols and their influence on the inflammatory pathway, as demonstrated by several in vitro or ex vivo studies. Indeed, flavanols modify the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, the synthesis of eicosanoids, the activation of platelets, and nitric oxide-mediated mechanisms. A relative paucity of data still characterizes the in vivo implications of these findings albeit there have been studies suggesting that the regular or occasional consumption of cocoa-rich compounds exerts beneficial effects on blood pressure, insulin resistance, vascular damage, and oxidative stress. Accordingly, rigorous controlled human studies with adequate follow-up and with the use of critical dietary questionnaires are needed to determine the effects of flavanols on the major endpoints of cardiovascular health.
The anti-inflammatory properties of cocoa flavanols.
Signs of chronic or acute inflammation have been demonstrated in most cardiovascular diseases of multifactorial pathogenesis, including atherosclerosis and chronic heart failure. The triggers and mechanisms leading to inflammation may vary between clinical conditions but they share many common mediators, including specific patterns of eicosanoid and cytokine production. Certain cocoa-based products can be rich in a subclass of flavonoids known as flavanols, some of which have been found in model systems to possess potential anti-inflammatory activity relevant to cardiovascular health. Indeed, experimental evidence demonstrates that some cocoa-derived flavanols can reduce the production and effect of pro-inflammatory mediators either directly or by acting on signaling pathways. However, it should be noted that the evidence for any beneficial effects of cocoa flavanols in providing a meaningful anti-inflammatory action has been gathered predominantly from in vitro experiments. Therefore, additional research in well-designed human clinical experiments, using cocoa properly characterized in terms of flavanol content, would be a welcome addition to the evidence base to determine unambiguously if this benefit does indeed exist. If so, then flavanol-rich cocoa could be a potential candidate for the treatment, or possibly prevention, of the broad array of chronic diseases that are linked to dysfunctional inflammatory responses.
Flavonoids of Cocoa Inhibit Recombinant Human 5-Lipoxygenase