We all love to eat junk food.

So much that it can even be said that most of us cannot even imagine our lives without it.

But what people don’t know is that with the great taste comes the cholesterol.

Cholesterol is a form of fat like a chemical compound.

Even though it is essential for the body to function properly, it can be very unhealthy if consumed in high amounts.

Why Is Cholesterol Important for the Body?

Cholesterol is required by the body for the production of some hormones, vitamins and other chemicals used in the process of digestion.

What are the Two Types of Cholesterol?

Cholesterol can be classified into two types –

  • LDL or Low-Density Lipoprotein – These are commonly referred to as the ‘bad cholesterol.’ It is because LDL causes a build-up of cholesterol in the arteries, which leads to a blockage in them.
  • HDL or High-Density Lipoprotein – These are known as the ‘good cholesterol.’ They remove the excess cholesterol from various parts of the body and bring it back to the liver which eliminates it.

That being said, both LDL and HDL are equally important for the body.

What is Cocoa?

Cocoa comes from the edible seeds of the cocoa plant, known as Theobroma cacao. It can be extracted in forms such as cocoa powder, cocoa butter, and cocoa liquor.

Cocoa is usually used in the form of cocoa powder. This powder is prepared by harvesting the cocoa beans, drying them up and the grinding the fermented beans.

Cocoa has a number of health benefits.

It is used in the preparation of several foods, especially chocolates. They are a part of a majority of desserts and can even be eaten raw.

Cocoa has many health benefits such as in prevention and treatment of diseases like cancer, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and various infections and flu.

Applying as well as consuming cocoa helps in protecting the skin from the harmful ultraviolet rays of the Sun. It keeps the skin healthy and hydrated.

10 Benefits of Cocoa for Lowering Cholesterol

Here are a few science-backed ways cocoa helps in lowering cholesterol

1. Cocoa Boosts Good Cholesterol Levels

High-density lipoprotein or HDL is a lipid molecule which is responsible for the elimination of cholesterol molecules from the body.

It is important to have more high-density lipoproteins that low-density lipoproteins.

Various clinical studies have observed how cocoa affects these molecules.

One such study was done to find out which component of cocoa majorly modulates the concentrations of serum high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol.

After giving the subjects both theobromine and flavonoid-rich cocoa for two weeks, it was observed that theobromine could independently cause an increase in their concentrations. [1]

This suggests that theobromine is the main compound of cocoa which can help maintain a healthy cholesterol level.

Another study involving obese women suggests that cocoa helps in decreasing the fats and improving the lipid profile while showing a positive effect on the high-density lipoprotein level. [2]

What does this Mean? Cocoa increases the high-density lipoprotein which binds to the cholesterol and is responsible for its elimination from the body.

2. Cocoa Antioxidants Lower Bad Cholesterol Levels

Cocoa modulates the lipid level in the body. A study conducted on individuals who were at risk of developing cardiovascular diseases showed that cocoa consumption lowers the lipid level and protects heart health.

The polyphenols present in cocoa metabolize lipids and help in their excretion from the body.

It was observed in this study that cocoa increases the high-density lipoprotein levels and decreases the oxidized low-density lipoproteins. [3]

Another study conducted to observe the effect of dark chocolate consumption on low-density lipoprotein suggested that in twelve weeks of regular intake of cocoa, their levels decreased significantly.

This study was specific to low-density lipoprotein serum and total cholesterol of the body. According to this study, the decrease was due to the action of flavanols in cocoa. [4]

What does this Mean? Cocoa flavonols decrease the level of low-density lipoproteins which are otherwise responsible for the increase in blood cholesterol levels.

3. Cocoa Polyphenols Protect Heart Health

Polyphenols are chemical compounds found in plant and plant products. They have been associated with improving cardiovascular health. [5]

Cocoa contains high polyphenol content. This makes cocoa healthy for the body and many heart-related disorders.

Polyphenol decreases the inflammation of blood vessels and improves the overall condition of the vascular system.

It lowers the lipid profile, which leads to a decrease in the cholesterol level and prevents plaque formation in arteries. [6]

Even short term cocoa consumption leads to lowering of the lipid levels in the body. [7]

Research showed that cocoa polyphenols reduce the plaque which deposits in the arteries and prevents any further plaque formation.

It also reduces oxidative stress and the chances of developing atherosclerosis. [8]

What does this Mean? The polyphenols present in cocoa are majorly responsible for improving the condition of blood vessels and lowering the lipid levels. These polyphenols exert a cardioprotective action.

4. Cocoa Helps Lower the Blood Pressure

Blood pressure is simply defined at the pressure of blood flowing in the arteries.

High blood pressure leads to hypertension, a severe health condition which could further lead to various heart diseases.

Chocolates consisting of a high amount of cocoa and high polyphenol content help in bringing the blood pressure down. [9][10]

This is mainly beneficial in the case of people who have diabetes and hypertension.

Chocolate even brings the blood glucose level down without affecting the body weight or body mass index. [11]

Nitrogen oxide is responsible for regulating the blood pressure by dilating the blood vessels. Cocoa in the form of dark chocolate directly affects this nitrogen oxide.

Regular consumption of dark chocolate increases the nitrogen oxide serum levels which dilate the artery and decreases the systolic blood pressure. [12]

What does this Mean? An increase in the blood pressure can lead to some severe heart diseases. Cocoa lowers blood pressure by dilating the arteries.

5. Cocoa is Beneficial in Diabetes

Cocoa supplements are beneficial for diabetes patients because of the high polyphenol content.

The polyphenols increase the high-density lipoprotein levels in the body which prevent excess cholesterol build up in the body, mainly in the arteries.

Along with this, cocoa extracts increase the insulin level of the body. This is advantageous for those who have diabetes as the sugar level in the blood goes down. [13]

Diabetes is a condition in which blood sugar levels increase abnormally. This is a very commonly observed condition among people nowadays.

The research reported that individuals with type 2 diabetes showed an improvement in their cholesterol profile after consuming chocolate on a regular basis.

The plaque in their arteries decreased significantly, and the HDL cholesterol level increased without an increase in their body weight. [14]

What does this Mean? Cocoa reduces blood cholesterol and also brings the glucose level in blood down. This is an advantage for type 2 diabetes patients.

6. Dietary Fibers from Cocoa Plant Reduce Cholesterol

Another useful component of the cocoa plant is the cocoa bean shell.

It has been found that the dietary fibers obtained from these shells absorb excess glucose and bind with cholesterol and brings their level down.

This fiber is cheap and can be included in the daily diet. [15]

Cocoa dietary fibers show hypolipidemic effect, just like other products of cocoa. They lower the lipid levels and prevent any increase in cholesterol.

This happens because of the antioxidant enzymes present in these fibers which reduce the fats in the blood. [16]

They are anti-inflammatory in nature as well. [17]

What does this Mean? The dietary fibers of cocoa bean shell possess the same properties as cocoa itself. Since they are cheap and healthy, they can be included in the regular diet.

7. Cocoa Decreases Cardiovascular Risk

The cardiovascular disease consists of many heart diseases such as coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, heart attack, arrhythmia, and heart failure, etc.

A majority of people die every year due to these heart-related disorders. Strict precautions need to be taken by people so as to prevent the onset of these diseases.

Regular intake of cocoa powder and chocolates is healthy for the heart.

A study reported that people who consumed regular cocoa had decreased diastolic blood pressure as compared to those who didn’t.

This property is due to the catechins and other flavanols present in it. [18]

Upon daily intake of flavanol-rich cocoa, it was found that the chances of cardiovascular diseases were reduced to very low.

Cocoa reduces the bad cholesterol levels, increases the good cholesterol and prevents any blockage in the arteries.

This helps in keeping the heart healthy and decreases cardiovascular risk without leading to any weight gain. [19]

However, it should be observed that the cocoa contains a high amount of flavonols and epicatechin so that maximum benefits can be reaped. [20]

What does this Mean? By decreasing the cholesterol levels and preventing any blockages in the arteries, cocoa helps in maintaining overall cardiovascular health.

8. Cocoa Reduces Obesity and Related Disorders

Excessive fat deposit in various parts of the body is a condition known as obesity. This is very harmful to the heart.

Excess fat deposit takes place in the arteries as well, leading to their blockage.

Flavanol-rich cocoa improves the lipid profile and brings the body fat level down to normal.

But this happens only when a small quantity of cocoa is ingested on a regular basis.

In a study, it was observed that with the decrease in lipid level, there was a significant decrease in the haptoglobin level as well as some particular monocytes too. [21]

Haptoglobin is a protein which initiates the death of hemoglobin molecules.

Monocytes are a type of blood cells which may stick to the blood vessels and cause a condition known as atherogenesis.

This study also suggested that cocoa has the potential to reduce atherogenic factors.

Health disorders such as dyslipidemia (a condition in which the lipid level in blood is extremely high) and hypercholesterolemia (a condition in which blood cholesterol level is abnormally high) can be treated with the help of cocoa powder.

According to research done on an animal model, cocoa acts as a hypolipidemic agent and lowers the lipid level in blood.

It can prevent the build-up of fats in blood vessels and protect the heart. [22]

All these health disorders together are a part of the metabolic syndrome.

In short, it can be said that cocoa cures the metabolic syndrome, although further research is required to prove the anti-inflammatory activity of cocoa and its mechanism. [23]

What does this Mean? A high cholesterol level can cause disorders such as obesity, atherogenesis, and dyslipidemia, which together comprise the metabolic syndrome. These can be managed with the help of cocoa.

9. Cocoa Reduces Arterial Inflammation

Since cocoa consumption is associated with improving the heart health and lowering cardiovascular risk, it can be said that cocoa also helps in improving the functioning of inner walls of blood vessels.

Intake of cocoa reduces the stiffness of arterial walls and the risk of endothelial dysfunction.

It opens up the arteries and enhances the process of vasodilation (widening of blood vessels). [24]

A clinical trial conducted on adults reported that cocoa improves endothelial function when consumed in either solid dark chocolate form or liquid form.

Obese people may also find a significant reduction in their blood pressure, which is good for the heart. [25]

What does this Mean? Cocoa reduces the swelling in arteries which is caused due to excess build-up of plaque. It reduces inflammation in the arteries.

10. Cocoa Prevents Atherosclerosis

Atherosclerosis is a heart condition in which arteries become swollen due to the build-up of plaque in them.

Plaque develops when cholesterol and similar fat molecules combine with other substances such as minerals.

It sticks to the inner wall of the artery and keeps building up until the artery gets blocked. This is a severe condition which may lead to other heart diseases.

Endothelial dysfunction is a major factor involved in causing atherosclerosis. When the arteries are not able to dilate properly blood passes through a narrow region and the pressure increases.

Cocoa reduces the risk of endothelial dysfunction. This would lead to the fact that cocoa may play a role in the prevention of atherosclerosis as well. [26]

A published study stated that this might happen due to the positive effects of cocoa flavanols on blood pressure and inflammation of the blood vessels. [27]

What does this Mean? Cocoa intake can benefit in atherosclerosis and improve endothelial function.

Dosage of Cocoa For High Cholesterol

Cocoa is most easily available in the form of chocolates. Since milk chocolates contain a high amount of fats, dark chocolate should always be preferred over it.

The recommended dosage of cocoa is around 26-40 grams of dark chocolate. This would mean that up to 200 calories of dark chocolate are healthy for daily consumption.

This amount contains the necessary epicatechin, flavanols, and other polyphenols. [28]

Precautions

Despite the many benefits of cocoa in improving cardiovascular health, the negative effects cannot be ignored.

When cocoa is consumed in the form of chocolates, they contain a certain amount of fat, sugar, and milk. This could be very unhealthy for the heart if taken in excessive amounts.

Milk chocolate should be avoided by people already suffering from heart diseases as it would worsen the condition instead of curing it.

If taking blood thinners or suffering from bleeding risks, please limit cocoa intake.

Limit cocoa intake in pregnancy and lactation.

Final Words

Cocoa if taken the right way can prove to be very healthy for the heart.

Some studies have proved that the polyphenols present in cocoa lower the total cholesterol level in the blood.

Cocoa increases the beneficial high-density lipoprotein and decreases the harmful low-density lipoprotein.

A correct dose of cocoa treats the inflammation of arteries, reduces obesity, atherosclerosis and ensures a healthy vascular system by removing the deposited plaque.

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