Cocoa (also known as Cacao) extract is a bitter combination with a chocolate taste, made up of xanthine molecules (theobromine and caffeine) and procyanidins. Cocoa extract also refers to the bioactive compounds that include flavanols or flavonoids and (-)-epicatechin. Supplementing cocoa extract may provide cardiovascular and cognitive benefits through improved blood flow and antioxidant effect.
Cocoa extract is a pure type of antioxidants which is, in fact, very beneficial for health. Cocoa extract acts as a nootorpic and it is a naturally occurring blend of polyphenols and mild stimulants that promote mental energy and a happier mood.
The common health benefits of Cocoa extract include:
- Enhances cognitive performance 
- Improves brain health 
- Balances cholesterol levels 
- Helps people who have diabetes 
- Relieves bronchial asthma 
- Improves weight loss 
- Improves heart health 
- Enhances mood 
- Helps people who are fighting cancer 
- Reduces symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome 
- Helps people who have neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s 
- Helps people who have oxidative injuries, inflammatory conditions, anxiety, hyperglycemia, and insulin resistance 
The phenylethylamine and theobromine in cocoa extract improve the neurotransmitter activity, increase mental alertness. Though theobromine and caffeine are the most common central nervous system stimulants, the main difference between theobromine and caffeine for energy is the fact that caffeine has a greater effect on the central nervous system while theobromine has a greater effect on the heart. Again theobromine acts as a vasodilator to widen blood vessels, and relieve vascular diseases, hypertension, angina pectoris and helps increase cognitive or physical energy. Regular consumption of cocoa extract decreases the risk of heart diseases and supports heart health greatly. It is extremely helpful for patients suffering from cholesterol problems as it helps to raise good cholesterol levels, and decreases the bad cholesterol. Cocoa increases the levels of anti-inflammatory compounds in the brain, which help to suppress the inflammatory responses linked to migraine headaches.
How it works
Cocoa extract is rich sources of antioxidants. Epidemiological studies show a contrary association between the consumption of cocoa and the risk of cardiovascular disease. The likely mechanisms are antioxidant action; improvement in endothelial function, vascular function, and insulin sensitivity; as well as decrease of platelet reactivity and reduction in blood pressure.
The pharmacologically active ingredients of cocoa seeds include amines, alkaloids, fatty acids, polyphenols (including flavonoids), tyramine, magnesium, phenylethylamine, and N-acylethanolamines.
Cocoa extract has been reported to be a source of natural antioxidants, the free radical scavengers that preserve cell membranes, protect DNA, hinder the oxidation of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol that leads to atherosclerosis, and avert plaque formation in arterial walls. The antioxidant activity of cocoa has been attributed to the procyanidins and their monomeric precursors, epicatechin and catechin, which inhibit oxidation of LDL cholesterol. Procyanidins in cocoa extract are thought to decrease the common risks of developing heart disease and neurodegenerative conditions, and to decrease mortality rates overall. Additionally, procyanidins help people who have thrombosis (intravenous blood clots) and inhibit the hardening of the arteries. Another flavonol in cocoa extract – epicatechin acts to increase blood flow to the brain counteracting the effects of caffeine making it a more balanced feeling. Epicatechin is also shown to improve skin, blood pressure, appetite, insulin sensitivity, and help build muscle.
Some common side effects of Cocoa consumption can be acne, vomiting, insomnia, restlessness, too much excitement, muscle tremors, fast pulse, irregular heartbeats, and mild fever. As there is caffeine content in cocoa extract, many interactions are theoretically possible if large doses are consumed.
Only your doctor can say about the dosage you need. The standard dose for cocoa extract may be 500 – 1,000mg a day, taken with meals. it is recommended to avoid dosages greater than those found in food because safety and efficacy are unproven. Caffeine content should be restricted during pregnancy.
- Erdman JW Jr, Carson L, Kwik-Uribe C, Evans EM, Allen RR. Effects of cocoa flavanols on risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr . 2008;17(suppl 1):284-287.
- Arts IC, Hollman PC, Kromhout D. Chocolate as a source of tea flavonoids. Lancet . 1999;354(9177):488.
- Osakabe N, Baba S, Yasuda A, et al. Daily cocoa intake reduces the susceptibility of low-density lipoprotein to oxidation as demonstrated in healthy human volunteers. Free Radic Res . 2001;34(1):93-99.