Cocoa is a rich source of high-quality antioxidant polyphenols. They comprise mainly catechins (29%-38% of total polyphenols), anthocyanins (4% of total polyphenols) and proanthocyanidins (58%-65% of total polyphenols). A growing body of experimental and epidemiological evidence highlights that the intake of cocoa polyphenols may reduce the risk of cardiovascular events. Beyond antioxidant properties, cocoa polyphenols exert blood pressure lowering activity, antiplatelet, anti-inflammatory, metabolic and anti-atherosclerotic effects, and also improve endothelial function. This paper reviews the role of cocoa polyphenols in cardiovascular protection, with a special focus on mechanisms of action, clinical relevance and correlation between antioxidant activity and cardiovascular health.
Keywords: cardiovascular health; cocoa; flavanols; proanthocyanidins.