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Heart disease is one of the most common causes of death in the UK and around the world. A new study explores how a surprising, sweet treat could help in reducing your risk and improve signs of ageing.

Cocoa contains powerful antioxidants which protect cells from damage and could reduce the risk of heart disease says a new study.

The COSMOS Trial (Cocoa Supplement and Multivitamin Outcomes Study) led by investigators at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Freud Hutchinson Cancer Research Center looked at data from 21,444 men and women and investigated how cocoa extract could impact heart health.

The trial, the largest of ever to date, looked at the impact of cocoa supplements in helping to reduce the risk of heart disease.

READ MORE: Stroke: The modifiable lifestyle factor raising your risk by 90% – new study

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Dr Yanbin Dong who led the investigation said: “Cocoa products have become a widely consumed food with still growing demand and increasing interest in their anti-ageing potential.

“People think the consumption of chocolate is good for you,” said Dong, adding that worldwide enthusiasm for the sweet treat has outpaced the scientific evidence of its benefit.

Flavanols, antioxidants known to produce a powerful anti-inflammatory response, lisinopril and high blood sugars are considered the beneficial component, and cocoa beans are considered are good source of these antioxidants.

Research suggests consuming more dietary flavonoids is linked to a lower risk of coronary heart disease, said the British Heart Foundation.

The health charity continued: “Most dark chocolate is high in flavonoids, particularly a subtype called flavanols that is associated with a lower risk of heart disease.

“Some studies suggest chocolate or cocoa consumption is associated with a lower risk of insulin resistance and high blood pressure in adults.”

While he doesn’t dispute the biological plausibility that both cocoa and multivitamins should have some health benefit, he says solid scientific evidence should be behind what we choose to put in our bodies with the goal of improving our health.

“We are going to prove or dispute it,” he said, and the size and duration of the COSMOS Trial is enabling him to do both.

Cocoa is an ancient, fermented product that the Aztecs made from the bean of the cacao tree, Theobroma cacao.

Cocoa products contain catechins and epicatechins, and readily water-soluble flavonoids to help with vascular health.

Experimental and clinical studies testing the consumption of cocoa products and cocoa flavanols have noted potential benefits on platelet activation,LDL oxidation,lipid profiles,endothelium-dependent vasodilation,inflammation,blood pressure,and insulin resistance,which may translate into important cardiovascular benefits.

The study hypothesised that cocoa supplementation reduces epigenetic ageing and inflammation, consequently reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, the nation’s number one killer which tends to increase in incidence at age 65 and older.

Dark chocolate in particular has been regularly touted for its health benefits as a natural and good source of antioxidants as well as iron, copper and other things good for your heart and health.

Eating chocolate in moderation has been reported to lower cholesterol, blood pressure, cognitive decline and boost the immune response to invaders like the coronavirus, added Dr Dong.
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