Chocolate has become the subject of dialogue regarding its potentially positive effects on the human body. Of course, many “chocoholics” out there may not need another reason to celebrate this age-old sweet treat. It is already held in high regard among multitudes of the young and old due to the rich and decadent flavor. However, there have recently been rumblings of other eye-opening components to this confection (particularly, dark chocolate) that may include health benefits. Now, it seems that 18,000 participants are being recruited for a three-year study as testers of a “chocolate” pill and its impact on human health.
Chocolate is a derived product of the seed of the cacao tree, most commonly referred to as the cocoa bean. It is inside that seed that scientists have discovered cocoa flavanols, nutrients that have been linked to reducing the risk of stroke and heart disease. Past studies have shown that chocolate, eaten in small amounts, had a positive effect on blood pressure, and may actually reduce the risk of larger health problems related to the human cardiovascular system. It has also been pointed out that dark chocolate, as opposed to milk chocolate and white chocolate, has a higher concentration of flavanols, as it contains a purer form of the substance.
Mars Inc., which has become famous for many mass-produced chocolate products such as M&Ms, is now putting these cocoa flavanols to the test. Sponsored by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, this three-year study on heart health will recruit participants to ingest pills – not actual chocolate – that contain an extremely high dose of cocoa flavanols. Unfortunately, for the chocolate lovers participating in the study, the pills will not have any sweetness or chocolate flavor.
The study will be led by Dr. JoAnn Manson, the preventive medicine chief at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Manson recently stated that cocoa flavanols are often “destroyed” through the process of turning mother nature’s gift of the cacao seed into mass-produced chocolate products. Therefore, one is not “going to get these [cocoa] flavanols in most of the candy on the market,” she says.
Culled from other existing studies to cut down on time and costs, the participants of this study will be split into two groups. As is usually the case, there will be a placebo group as well as a “chocolate” group. The identity of the groups will not be revealed to the testers, which will be comprised of both males and females. As an aside, there will be a second part to the study wherein participants will be used to test the effectiveness of multivitamins in the prevention of cancer.
After roughly 3,000 years of chocolate consumption by the world over, a new, lengthy study may confirm earlier findings that elements of the cocoa bean may reduce the risk of heart problems and stroke. While the recruited testers of these “chocolate” pills will not be experiencing the traditional flavors and satisfaction that normally come with ingesting chocolate, the overall health of society may benefit in the long run.
Opinion by Josh Taub