Cocoa pills could reduce the risk of dying from heart disease, according to new research.
A study has found that people who take cocoa flavanol supplements had a 27 percent lower rate of dying from cardiovascular death.
Researchers suggested that cocoa flavanol pills could have a protective cardiovascular effect, but more research was needed for confirmation.
Flavanols are nutrients found in some plants like tea and grapes, but are particularly abundant in seeds of the cacao tree.
They have been shown to help lower blood pressure, improve blood flow to the brain and heart, prevent blood clots and fight cell damage, according to Harvard Health.
Just as a word of warning, eating chocolate will not produce the same effect – the study used a cocoa extract supplement with high levels of flavanols.
The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, was the first large-scale trial to test the long-term effects of a cocoa flavanol supplement to prevent cardiovascular disease.
Previous smaller, short-term trials have found cardiovascular benefits for cocoa flavanols on blood pressure and blood vessel dilation, researchers said.
The study was led by Dr Howard Sesso and Dr JoAnn Manson from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
Titled the ‘COcoa Supplement and Multivitamin Outcomes Study’ (COSMOS), it involved more than 21,000 participants being randomly assigned to take a daily cocoa flavanol pill, a multivitamin, neither, or both.
Dr Sesso said they found “promising signals” that a cocoa flavanol supplement may reduce cardiovascular events including death from heart disease.
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Researchers emphasised that similar health benefits would not be possible from eating chocolate.
“Previous studies have suggested health benefits of flavanols — compounds in several plant-based foods including cocoa, tea, grapes, and berries,” said co-leader Dr Manson.
“COSMOS was not a chocolate trial — rather, it’s a rigorous trial of a cocoa extract supplement that contains levels of cocoa flavanols that a person could never realistically consume from chocolate without adding excessive calories, fat, and sugar to their diet.”
As the study took place over 3.6 years, the scientists said it was likely not enough time to detect whether the supplements could have affected cancer risk.
A multivitamin was found to have no effect on cancer prevention or cardiovascular death.
Dr Sesso added: “Our message for consumers is to eat a healthy, balanced diet, rich in natural food sources of flavanols, and to stay tuned as we further evaluate other important health outcomes in COSMOS.”