Natural cocoa consumption: Potential to reduce atherogenic factors?

J Nutr Biochem. 2015 Jun;26(6):626-32. doi: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2014.12.015. Epub 2015 Feb 26.


Short-term consumption of flavanol-rich cocoa has been demonstrated to improve various facets of vascular health. The purpose of the present study was to determine the effect of 4 weeks of natural cocoa consumption on selected cardiovascular disease (CVD) biomarkers in young (19-35 years) women of differing body mass indices (BMI; normal, overweight or obese). Subjects (n = 24) consumed a natural cocoa-containing product (12.7 g natural cocoa, 148 kcal/serving) or an isocaloric cocoa-free placebo daily for 4 weeks in a random, double-blind manner with a 2-week washout period between treatment arms. Fasted (>8-h) blood samples were collected before and after each 4-week period. Serum was analyzed to determine lipid profile (chemistry analyzer) and CVD biomarkers (26 biomarkers). EDTA-treated blood was used to assess monocytes (CD14, CD16, v11b and CD62L), while citrate-treated blood was used to measure changes in endothelial microparticles (EMPs; CD42a-/45-/144+) by flow cytometry. Natural cocoa consumption resulted in a significant decrease in haptoglobin (P = .034), EMP concentration (P = .017) and monocyte CD62L (P = .047) in obese compared to overweight and normal-weight subjects. Natural cocoa consumption regardless of BMI group was associated with an 18% increase in high-density lipoprotein (P = .020) and a 60% decrease in EMPs (P = .047). Also, obese subjects experienced a 21% decrease in haptoglobin (P = .034) and a 24% decrease in monocyte CD62L expression in (P = .047) following 4 weeks of natural cocoa consumption. Collectively, these findings indicate that acute natural cocoa consumption was associated with decreased obesity-related disease risk. More research is needed to assess the stability of the observed short-term changes.

Keywords: Chronic disease; Endothelial microparticle; Flavanol-rich cocoa; Inflammation; Monocyte adhesion molecule.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Absorptiometry, Photon
  • Adult
  • Atherosclerosis / blood
  • Atherosclerosis / prevention & control*
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cacao / chemistry*
  • Candy*
  • Cell-Derived Microparticles / metabolism
  • Cholesterol, HDL / blood
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Diet*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Flavonols / pharmacology
  • Haptoglobins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • L-Selectin / metabolism
  • Lipoproteins, HDL / blood
  • Monocytes / metabolism
  • Obesity / blood
  • Overweight / blood
  • Young Adult


  • Biomarkers
  • Blood Glucose
  • Cholesterol, HDL
  • Flavonols
  • Haptoglobins
  • Lipoproteins, HDL
  • L-Selectin