Realistic intake of a flavanol-rich soluble cocoa product increases HDL-cholesterol without inducing anthropometric changes in healthy and moderately hypercholesterolemic subjects
To assess whether antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and other cardio-protective effects attributed to cocoa are achieved when regularly consuming moderate amounts of a flavanol-rich soluble cocoa product, a non-randomized, controlled, crossover, free-living study was carried out in healthy (n = 24; 25.9 ± 5.6 years) and moderately hypercholesterolemic (200–240 mg dL−1; n = 20; 30.0 ± 10.3 years) volunteers. Participants consumed two servings per day (7.5 g per serving) of a soluble cocoa product (providing 45.3 mg flavanols per day) in milk, which was compared with consuming only milk during a 4 week period. The effects on systolic and diastolic blood pressure and heart rate were determined, as well as on serum lipid and lipoprotein profiles, interleukins (IL)-1β, IL-6, IL-8, IL-10, tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1), vascular (VCAM-1) and intercellular cell adhesion molecules (ICAM-1), serum malondialdehyde (MDA), carbonyl groups (CG), ferric reducing/antioxidant power (FRAP), oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC), and free radical scavenging capacity (ABTS). During the study, the volunteers' diets and physical activity were also evaluated, as well as any changes in weight, skin folds, circumferences and related anthropometric parameters. Cocoa and certain polyphenol-rich fruits and vegetables and their derivatives were restricted. After consuming the cocoa product positive effects were observed such as an increase in serum HDL-C (p < 0.001) and dietary fiber intake (p = 0.050), whereas IL-10 decreased (p = 0.022). Other cardiovascular-related biomarkers and anthropometric parameters were unaffected. We have therefore concluded that regular consumption of this cocoa product in a Spanish-Mediterranean diet may protect against cardiovascular disease in healthy and hypercholesterolemic subjects without producing any weight gain or other anthropometric changes.