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Cocoa Benefits

March 24, 2014

The heart-healthy benefits of dark cocoa are the work of gut bacteria.


BOB HIRSHON (host): Unleashing cocoa’s benefits. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Cocoa powder. (Susanne Bard)

Cocoa powder. (Susanne Bard)

If you’re a dark chocolate lover, news reports about its potential cardiovascular benefits probably make you smile. Now, researchers at Louisiana State University have uncovered how something so delicious could also be good for the heart. Food scientist John Finley and his team created a model of the human digestive tract to simulate the breakdown of cocoa powder after consumption.

JOHN FINLEY (Louisiana State University):

It’s to a fairly minor degree digested and altered in the stomach and the small intestine. But when it gets to the colon, the bacteria down there say “Aha! We like cocoa powder, too.”


He says the bacteria break cocoa’s anti-inflammatory compounds into simpler molecules. In this form, they’re readily absorbed into the bloodstream, where they may help prevent heart disease over the long term. Finley adds that consuming cocoa powder mixed into other foods and drinks is probably more beneficial than eating chocolates, which are high in fat. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the science society.