HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Akron Univ. School of Law

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Monday, August 22, 2005

Chocolate: The New Health Food

Rumors that chocolate might actually be good for you have been circulating for quite some time.  Mars, Inc., the large chocolate manufacture, has been following up on some of the recent studies showing the health benefits of chocolate for blood vessels.  According to CNN.com

Flavanols are found in other foods, such as red wine, grapes, apples and green tea, although cocoa beans are a particularly rich source.

Mars Inc. developed the technology to visualize flavanols on a computer screen. Says Harold Schmitz, the company's chief science officer: "Now we understand cocoa well enough to start to do new things with it."

The company is starting with CocoaVia granola bars, made with a special cocoa powder that retains most of the flavanols. The bars also have plant sterols, which have been shown to help lower cholesterol.

For now, the 80-calorie, 23-gram snack bars are sold only on the Internet. The bars have a satisfyingly rich chocolate flavor, along with a slight but distinct bitter taste.

Researchers are excited by the potential of flavanols to ward off vascular disease, which can cause heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, dementia and hypertension. Vascular diseases are linked to the artery's inability to make a simple but fundamental chemical called nitric oxide. Flavanols appear to reverse that problem.

"The pharmaceutical industry has spent tens, probably hundreds of millions of dollars in search of a chemical that would reverse that abnormality," Hollenberg said. "And God gave us flavanol-rich cocoa, which does that. So the excitement is real."

Now, if only my health insurance plan would pay for my chocolate habit . . . . [bm]

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