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Cocoa Chemical

February 13, 2006

While a box of Valentine’s Day chocolates won’t do much for your sweetie’s health, a new study has identified a heart-healthy chemical in some kinds of raw cocoa.


A beneficial cocoa chemical. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

The Kuna Indians who live off the coast of Panama use cocoa to preserve their fresh water. They’re also in great cardiovascular health. Biochemist Hagen Schroeter of the University of California at Davis says that’s no coincidence. He and his colleagues found that a chemical from certain cocoas called epicatechin relaxes blood vessels and improves blood flow.

But don’t go binging on chocolate bonbons. Schroeter says that commercial processing usually strips cocoa of its beneficial chemicals.

HAGEN SCHROETER (University of California at Davis):
And therefore the actual concentration of epicatechin in commonly available chocolates, for most of the part, except for a few exceptions, are actually quite low.

More promising—though a lot less appealing—would be a drug made from purified epicatechin. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.