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Cocoa as a medicine; The Present and Future of Cocoa Research

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For centuries, cocoa has been acknowledged not only for its superior taste but also for its proposed health effects. In fact, the Incas declared it the drink of Gods, and gave it the scientific name, Theobroma cacao, from the Greek words theo (God) and broma (drink). Cocoa is one of the most concentrated ...

For centuries, cocoa has been acknowledged not only for its superior taste but also for its proposed health effects. In fact, the Incas declared it the drink of Gods, and gave it the scientific name, Theobroma cacao, from the Greek words theo (God) and broma (drink). Cocoa is one of the most concentrated sources of a natural antioxidant called flavonoids. These flavanoids include catechin and epicatechin, which are structurally similar to the antioxidants found in grapes and tea. Chocolate is the major item processed from cocoa seeds. In the past, physicians tended to warn patients about the potential health hazards of consuming chocolate. However, the recent discovery of biologically active phenolic compounds in cocoa has changed this perception and stimulated research on its effects in ageing, oxidative stress, blood pressure regulation, diabetes, cancer, and atherosclerosis. In addition, cocoa has micronutrients, like calcium, zinc, copper, manganese and iron all important for good health. The epidemiological evidence of beneficial effects of cococa came from the study of Indigenous Kuna Indian population characterized by a low prevalence of atherosclerosis, type 2 diabetes and hypertension, owing to regular cocoa intake. Some scientists have even declared that it improves the health in a way similar to exercise. Cocoa has also been shown to improve the cognitive performance; making it a potential candidate for the treatment of conditions like dementia, stroke and Alzheimer’s disease.
In the future prospect, research untying detailed cellular and molecular mechanism underlying cocoa’s biological activities are anticipated. Moreover, better fermentation and roasting of cocoa seeds will ensure better medicinal effects.


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