February 27, 2006

Cocoa consumers have lower disease risk: study

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Men who consumed the most cocoa had a
50 percent lower risk of dying from disease compared to those
who did not eat cocoa, Dutch researchers said on Monday.

Cocoa is known to lower blood pressure, though previous
studies have disagreed about whether it staves off heart
disease over the long-term particularly since it is contained
in foods high in fat, sugar and calories.

The new study in Archives of Internal Medicine concluded
that it was not lower blood pressure that corresponded to the
finding of a lower overall risk of death -- although the
biggest cocoa consumers did have lower blood pressure and fewer
cases of fatal heart disease than non-cocoa eaters.

Instead, the report credited antioxidants and flavanols
found in cocoa with boosting the functioning of cells that line
blood vessels and for lessening the risks from cholesterol and
other chemicals that can cause heart attacks, cancer and lung
diseases. Flavanols are a class of healthy flavonoids that are
found in many vegetables, green tea and red wine.

The 15-year study of 470 elderly men aged 65 to 84 in
Zutphen, the Netherlands, found one-third did not eat any
cocoa, while the median intake was 4.2 grams per day among the
third who consumed the most cocoa. From 1985 to 2000, 314 of
the men died, and the biggest cocoa eaters were at half the
risk of dying compared to men who did not eat it.

The report's author, Brian Buijsse of the National
Institute for Public Health and the Environment in Bilthoven,
said drawing conclusions for the broader population would
require more study of cocoa's impact on health.

"Before we can say cocoa can save your life, a larger study
would need to be done," agreed Dr. Nieca Goldberg, a
cardiologists at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York who did not
participate in the research. "This study is not generalizable
to the public because it was done in men over the age of 65