Chocolate pills are being developed that could one day prevent heart attacks and stroke. Researchers have been recently delving into the health benefits of dark chocolate, a confection beloved the world overaccording to the Los Angeles Times. This knowledge is being used to develop a chocolate pill in a research project developed jointly by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and Mars Inc., one of the leading manufacturers of chocolate treats.
The health benefit of dark chocolate is derived by how cocoa, a prime ingredient, is processed in the body. According to current research, when cocoa is digested long molecules called polyphenolic polymers remain within the gastrointestinal, or GI, tract. These molecules travel down to the colon where they encounter a number of bacteria which break them down into smaller molecules that pass through the gut wall through to the rest of the body. There the molecules act as an anti-inflammation agent that delays or even prevents the onset of cardiovascular disease.
Dark chocolate can dilate the blood vessels, thus lowering blood pressure and staving off the possibility of strokes. Researchers are uncertain as to why this happens. But they suspect antioxidant flavanols, such as catechin and epicatechin may be responsible.
Researchers caution that the effect is not seen in milk chocolate or white chocolate. Also dark chocolate contains sugar and fat that tends to be unhealthy in large amounts. So “self-medicating” with dark chocolate should be done with caution.
That is where the chocolate pills come in. The pills will contain concentrations of cocoa and other nutrients with the sugar and fat extracted. A volunteer study of 18,000 men and woman from around the world will take the pills. The four year study will provide participants with either dummy pills or two capsules a day of cocoa flavanols. During the study, neither the contestants nor the study leaders will know who is taking what.
If the chocolate pill regime is seen to improve heart health, they might become as popular a
dietary supplement as fish oil is today.