Chronic inflammation has been identified as a necessary step to mediate atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease and as a relevant stage in the onset and progression of several types of cancer. Considerable attention has recently been focused on the identification of dietary bioactive compounds with anti-inflammatory activities as an alternative natural source for prevention of inflammation-associated diseases. The remarkable capacity of cocoa flavanols as antioxidants, as well as to modulate signaling pathways involved in cellular processes, such as inflammation, metabolism and proliferation, has encouraged research on this type of polyphenols as useful bioactive compounds for nutritional prevention of cardiovascular disease and cancer. Data from numerous studies suggest that cocoa and cocoa-derived flavanols can effectively modify the inflammatory process, and thus potentially provide a benefit to individuals with elevated risk factors for atherosclerosis/cardiovascular pathology and cancer. The present overview will focus on the most recent findings about the effects of cocoa, its main constituents and cocoa derivatives on selected biomarkers of the inflammatory process in cell culture, animal models and human cohorts.
Keywords: anti-inflammatory flavonoids; anti-inflammatory-polyphenols; cardiovascular disease; chocolate; colon cancer; colon inflammation; flavanols.