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Cocoa, cocoa powder and chocolate

The scientific name Theobroma cacao L. refers to the cacao tree although commonly this word can refer to the fruit that grows on the tree and even the seed that holds within it as much as the product obtained from the fermentation and drying of the seed and subsequent removal of the fat resulting the base which are made the other cocoa products such as chocolate, cocoa powder and cocoa butter.

Approximately 50-54% of the weight of the cocoa seed correspond to their lipid content (mainly saturated fatty acids, palmitic and stearic). The rest corresponds to a 35-37% of water, 12-14% protein, 7-9% carbohydrates, a 5% minerals and another 1-9% of fiber.

Cocoa contains large amounts of alkaloids such as caffeine, theophylline and theobromine with stimulant properties but much of its therapeutic properties can be attributed to the polyphenolic compounds, mainly flavonoids, present in large quantities in cocoa seed. More than 30 flavonoid compounds have been described belonging mainly to the group of flavanols, flavones, anthocyanins and flavonols whose functional activity can be transferred to cocoa products taking account that treatments of fermentation, drying, roasting, etc., of the seed and the addition of milk as in the case of chocolate reduces the concentration of these compounds.

Numerous scientific studies have shown that consumption of cocoa and its derivatives may provide protection against cardiovascular disease by reducing the risk of death from this cause because they can reduce blood pressure, increase the antioxidant capacity of plasma to inhibit oxidation and reduce LDL oxidation and biomarkers of F2-isoprostanes and malondialdehyde.

In relation to this research line, the group of POLYPHENOLS has been involved in the development of methodology for the characterization of phenolic compounds in cocoa and cocoa products (soluble cocoa) by high resolution techniques of liquid chromatography (LC-MS/MS). We have also conducted multiple clinical trials in humans to study the bioavailability of these compounds and their metabolites in plasma and urine, which shows that regular consumption of cocoa and derivatives reduces oxidized LDL levels by increasing HDL and reduces biomarkers of inflammation associated with cardiovascular disease.



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  • Urpi-Sarda M, Ramiro-Puig E, Khan N, Ramos-Romero S, Llorach R, Castell M, Gonzalez-Manzano S, Santos-Buelga C, Andres-Lacueva C. Distribution of epicatechin metabolites in lymphoid tissues and testes of young rats with a cocoa-enriched diet. Br J Nutr. 2010;103(10):1393-7.
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  • Llorach R, Urpi-Sarda M, Jauregui O, Monagas M, Andres-Lacueva C. An LC-MS-based metabolomics approach for exploring urinary metabolome modifications after cocoa consumption. J Proteome Res. 2009;8(11):5060-8.
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  • Monagas M, Khan N, Andres-Lacueva C, Casas R, Urpí-Sardà M, Llorach R, Lamuela-Raventós RM, Estruch R. Effect of cocoa powder on the modulation of inflammatory biomarkers in patients at high risk of cardiovascular disease. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009;90(5):1144-50.
  • Urpi-Sarda M, Monagas M, Khan N, Lamuela-Raventos RM, Santos-Buelga C, Sacanella E, Castell M, Permanyer J, Andres-Lacueva C. Epicatechin, procyanidins, and phenolic microbial metabolites after cocoa intake in humans and rats. Anal Bioanal Chem. 2009;394(6):1545-56.
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  • Ramiro-Puig E, Urpí-Sardà M, Pérez-Cano FJ, Franch A, Castellote C, Andrés-Lacueva C, Izquierdo-Pulido M, Castell M. Cocoa-enriched diet enhances antioxidant enzyme activity and modulates lymphocyte composition in thymus from young rats. J Agric Food Chem. 2007;55(16):6431-8.
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  • Roura E, Andrés-Lacueva C, Jáuregui O, Badia E, Estruch R, Izquierdo-Pulido M, Lamuela-Raventós RM. Rapid liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry assay to quantify plasma (-)-epicatechin metabolites after ingestion of a standard portion of cocoa beverage in humans. J Agric Food Chem. 2005;53(16):6190-4.
  • Ramiro E, Franch A, Castellote C, Andrés-Lacueva C, Izquierdo-Pulido M, Castell M. Effect of Theobroma cacao flavonoids on immune activation of a lymphoid cell line. Br J Nutr. 2005;93(6):859-66.
  • Roura E, Andrés-Lacueva C, Jáuregui O, Badia E, Estruch R, Izquierdo-Pulido M, Lamuela-Raventós RM. Rapid method for the identification of epicatechin metabolites in human plasma and urine after ingestion of cocoa beverage by LC/MS/MS. J Agric Food Chem. 2005; 53(16):6190-4.
  • Noé V, Peñuelas S, Lamuela-Raventós RM, Permanyer J, Ciudad CJ, Izquierdo-Pulido M. Epicatechin and a cocoa polyphenolic extract modulate gene expression in human CaCo-2 cells. J Nutr. 2004;134(10):2509-16
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