Effects of cocoa powder and dark chocolate on LDL oxidative susceptibility and prostaglandin concentrations in humans

Am J Clin Nutr. 2001 Nov;74(5):596-602. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/74.5.596.


Background: Flavonoids are polyphenolic compounds of plant origin with antioxidant effects. Flavonoids inhibit LDL oxidation and reduce thrombotic tendency in vitro. Little is known about how cocoa powder and dark chocolate, rich sources of polyphenols, affect these cardiovascular disease risk factors.

Objective: We evaluated the effects of a diet high in cocoa powder and dark chocolate (CP-DC diet) on LDL oxidative susceptibility, serum total antioxidant capacity, and urinary prostaglandin concentrations.

Design: We conducted a randomized, 2-period, crossover study in 23 healthy subjects fed 2 diets: an average American diet (AAD) controlled for fiber, caffeine, and theobromine and an AAD supplemented with 22 g cocoa powder and 16 g dark chocolate (CP-DC diet), providing approximately 466 mg procyanidins/d.

Results: LDL oxidation lag time was approximately 8% greater (P = 0.01) after the CP-DC diet than after the AAD. Serum total antioxidant capacity measured by oxygen radical absorbance capacity was approximately 4% greater (P = 0.04) after the CP-DC diet than after the AAD and was positively correlated with LDL oxidation lag time (r = 0.32, P = 0.03). HDL cholesterol was 4% greater after the CP-DC diet (P = 0.02) than after the AAD; however, LDL-HDL ratios were not significantly different. Twenty-four-hour urinary excretion of thromboxane B(2) and 6-keto-prostaglandin F(1)(alpha) and the ratio of the 2 compounds were not significantly different between the 2 diets.

Conclusion: Cocoa powder and dark chocolate may favorably affect cardiovascular disease risk status by modestly reducing LDL oxidation susceptibility, increasing serum total antioxidant capacity and HDL-cholesterol concentrations, and not adversely affecting prostaglandins.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 6-Ketoprostaglandin F1 alpha / urine
  • Adult
  • Antioxidants / metabolism*
  • Biflavonoids*
  • Biological Availability
  • Cacao / chemistry*
  • Candy
  • Catechin / blood
  • Catechin / pharmacokinetics
  • Catechin / pharmacology*
  • Catechin / urine
  • Cholesterol, LDL / drug effects
  • Cholesterol, LDL / metabolism*
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Female
  • Flavonoids*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Phenols / administration & dosage
  • Pilot Projects
  • Polymers / administration & dosage
  • Powders
  • Proanthocyanidins*
  • Prostaglandins / metabolism*
  • Prostaglandins / urine
  • Theobromine / blood
  • Thromboxane B2 / urine


  • Antioxidants
  • Biflavonoids
  • Cholesterol, LDL
  • Flavonoids
  • Phenols
  • Polymers
  • Powders
  • Proanthocyanidins
  • Prostaglandins
  • procyanidin
  • Thromboxane B2
  • 6-Ketoprostaglandin F1 alpha
  • Catechin
  • Theobromine