Cocoa phytochemicals: recent advances in molecular mechanisms on health

Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2014;54(11):1458-72. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2011.641041.


Recent reports on cocoa are appealing in that a food commonly consumed for pure pleasure might also bring tangible benefits for human health. Cocoa consumption is correlated with reduced health risks of cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, atherosclerosis, and cancer, and the health-promoting effects of cocoa are mediated by cocoa-driven phytochemicals. Cocoa is rich in procyanidins, theobromine, (-)-epicatechin, catechins, and caffeine. Among the phytochemicals present in consumed cocoa, theobromine is most available in human plasma, followed by caffeine, (-)-epicatechin, catechin, and procyanidins. It has been reported that cocoa phytochemicals specifically modulate or interact with specific molecular targets linked to the pathogenesis of chronic human diseases, including cardiovascular diseases, cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, obesity, diabetes, and skin aging. This review summarizes comprehensive recent findings on the beneficial actions of cocoa-driven phytochemicals in molecular mechanisms of human health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Availability
  • Cacao / chemistry*
  • Caffeine / analysis
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control
  • Diabetes Mellitus / prevention & control
  • Flavonoids / analysis
  • Flavonoids / chemistry
  • Flavonoids / pharmacokinetics
  • Health Promotion*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / prevention & control
  • Obesity / prevention & control
  • Phytochemicals / analysis*
  • Proanthocyanidins
  • Skin Aging / drug effects
  • Theobromine / analysis
  • Theobromine / pharmacokinetics


  • Flavonoids
  • Phytochemicals
  • Proanthocyanidins
  • Caffeine
  • Theobromine