Theobroma cacao L.



Theobroma cacao, the “food of the gods” known to us as cocoa or chocolate, has been used as food and medicine for thousands of years. Originally a staple of the Mayan culture, the sweet news of chocolate quickly spread across the globe after the arrival of Hernan Cortez in South America. Historically used as a panacea, with over 100 documented uses, it was primarily a nutritive tonic and rejuvenator for body and mind and a cure for all manner of digestive and eliminative complaints. Current scientific research has revealed that cocoa is higher in antioxidants than tea or red wine, in this case the flavonoids catechin and epicatechin, and their related complexes called oligomeric procyanidins (OPCs). Modern controlled clinical trials have demonstrated that cocoa/chocolate consumption exerts beneficial effects on functions in the cardiovascular system via these plant chemicals. These effects appear to include lowering blood pressure, inhibiting platelet aggregation, decreasing LDL and increasing HDL cholesterol levels, and even reducing insulin resistance. A caution about this evidence base is that it mostly is derived from short term changes in small groups of healthy subjects and the benefits seen are surrogates only for long term effects on cardiovascular health.There is still uncertainty in some the literature about levels of active principles in the products used. In the meantime the results of the clinical trials are indeed promising and point to short term benefits for excess fats and cholesterol levels in the blood and even to help prevent thromboses; however because of as yet unknown impacts on health we are unable to recommend the daily use of relatively high doses of cocoa or chocolate over months and years for cardiovascular effects.

expert rating
What is this?

relevant applications or indications (scientifically researched *)
What are these?

high blood lipid, high low density lipoproteins (LDLs) in short term at least*
mild high blood pressure*
potential benefit in insulin resistance syndrome, metabolic syndrome ("syndrome X")
potential benefit in preventing thrombosis
phases of reduced concentration
recovery or convalescence from debilitating illnesses

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