In 2005, research by candymaker Mars Inc. ties flavanol molecules in cocoa to improved blood flow, which may indicate health benefits in eating chocolate, and potential for cocoa-based drugs to treat circulatory and cardiovascular disease. (Later independent studies report similar findings.)
Flavanol Molecules in Chocolate May Be Health Benefit
MATT LAUER, anchor:
We're back at 7:38 with some potentially sweet news for chocolate lovers. You might not need to feel all that guilty after all when you bite into a piece of chocolate. Here's NBC's Kevin Tibbles with the tasty details.
KEVIN TIBBLES, reporting:
In search of a little comfort, generations have reached for chocolate.
Unidentified Woman: Chocolate makes my day.
TIBBLES: Now Mars, the maker of everything from M&Ms to Snickers, says beyond comfort, certain cocoas found in chocolate could actually be good for you.
Dr. HAROLD SCHMITZ (Chief Science Officer, Mars Incorporated): And what really is exciting, we feel, is that we can leverage this discovery into cocoa and the cocoa flavanols into entirely new food products that are purpose-designed to deliver health benefits.
TIBBLES: Mars say its 15 years of research shows some cocoa molecules encourage blood flow and could, in the future, treat diabetes and stroke, even protect against cancer. The company says it's now talking to pharmaceutical firms about developing new cocoa-based medicines.
But there's a lot more involved here than simply pealing back the paper and taking a bite. Many researchers say they're still waiting to see the proof of cocoa's benefits.
Dr. JEANETTE NEWTON KEITH (Assistant Professor of Medicine, University of Chicago): We need to see the science that supports the beneficial effect of this chocolate-based drug before we can strongly recommend it to all of our patients.
TIBBLES: Americans spend more money on chocolate than any other snack.
TIBBLES: Some day a derivative of that candy may actually assist in improving our health. For TODAY, Kevin Tibbles, NBC News, Chicago.
For years, chocolate lovers have remained blissfully unaware of the precise reason bittersweet dark chocolate seems to improve cardiovascular health. At least until now, that is.
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