Chemopreventive effects of cocoa polyphenols on chronic diseases

Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2001 Nov;226(10):891-7. doi: 10.1177/153537020122601003.


We have explored the causes of the major chronic diseases prevailing in the world and the relevant mechanisms as a sound basis for recommendations for their prevention. Research shows that the cocoa bean, and tasty products derived from the cocoa bean such as chocolate, and the beverage cocoa, popular with many people worldwide, is rich in specific antioxidants, with the basic structure of catechins and epicatechin, and especially the polymers procyanidins, polyphenols similar to those found in vegetables and tea. Metabolic epidemiological studies indicate that regular intake of such products increases the plasma level of antioxidants, a desirable attribute as a defense against reactive oxygen species (ROS). The antioxidants in cocoa can prevent the oxidation of LDL-cholesterol, related to the mechanism of protection in heart disease. Likewise, a few studies show that ROS associated with the carcinogenic processes is also inhibited, although there have not been many studies on a possible lower risk of various types of cancer either in humans or in animal models consuming cocoa butter or chocolates. Based on the knowledge acquired thus far, it would seem reasonable to suggest inhibition of the several phases of the complex processes leading to cancer, as a function of quantitative intake of antioxidants, including those from cocoa and chocolates. Cocoa and chocolate also contain fats from cocoa butter. These are mainly stearic triglycerides (C18:0) that are less well absorbed than other fats, and are excreted in the feces. Thus, cocoa butter is less bioavailable and has minimal effect on serum cholesterol.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antioxidants / chemistry
  • Antioxidants / metabolism
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology
  • Cacao / chemistry*
  • Cholesterol, LDL / metabolism
  • Chronic Disease
  • Coronary Disease / prevention & control*
  • Flavonoids*
  • Humans
  • Lipid Metabolism
  • Lipids / chemistry
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Phenols / pharmacology*
  • Polymers / pharmacology*
  • Polyphenols
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Stearates / analysis
  • Stearates / chemistry


  • Antioxidants
  • Cholesterol, LDL
  • Flavonoids
  • Lipids
  • Phenols
  • Polymers
  • Polyphenols
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Stearates