Background and aims: Epidemiological studies suggest that regular consumption of cocoa-containing products may confer cardiovascular protection, reducing the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD). However, studies on the effects of cocoa on different cardiovascular risk factors are still scarce. The aim of this study was too evaluate the effects of chronic cocoa consumption on lipid profile, oxidized low-density lipoprotein (oxLDL) particles and plasma antioxidant vitamin concentrations in high-risk patients.
Methods and results: Forty-two high-risk volunteers (19 men and 23 women, mean age 69.7 ± 11.5 years) were included in a randomized, crossover feeding trial. All received 40g of cocoa powder with 500 mL of skimmed milk/day(C + M) or only 500 mL/day of skimmed milk (M) for 4 weeks in a random order. Before and after each intervention period, plasma lipids, oxLDL and antioxidant vitamin concentrations were measured, as well as urinary cocoa polyphenols metabolites derived from phase II and microbial metabolisms. Compared to M, C + M intervention increases HDLc [2.67 mg/dL (95% confidence intervals, CI, 0.58-4.73; P = 0.008)] and decreases oxLDL levels [-12.3 U/L (CI,-19.3 to -5.2;P = 0.001)]. No changes between intervention groups were observed in vitamins B1, B6, B12, C and E, or folic acid concentrations. In addition, subjects who showed higher increments in urinary cocoa polyphenol metabolites exhibited significant increases in HDLc and significant decreases in oxLDL levels (P < 0.05; all).
Conclusions: Consumption of cocoa power with milk modulates the lipid profile in high-risk subjects for CHD. In addition, the relationship observed between the urinary excretion of cocoa polyphenol metabolites and plasma HDLc and oxLDL levels suggests a beneficial role for cocoa polyphenols in lipid metabolism.
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