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J Agric Food Chem. 2007 May 16;55(10):3926-35. Epub 2007 Apr 18.

A new process to develop a cocoa powder with higher flavonoid monomer content and enhanced bioavailability in healthy humans.

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Research Group on Quality, Safety and Bioactivity of Plant Food, Department of Food Science & Technology, CEBAS-CSIC, 30100 Campus de Espinardo, Murcia, Spain.


Cocoa is a food rich in polyphenols, mainly the flavonoid procyanidins and flavan-3-ols. The improvement of the cardiovascular function in humans upon cocoa consumption has been specifically linked to the presence of flavan-3-ol derived metabolites in plasma, especially epicatechin glucuronide. In this context, a flavonoid-enriched cocoa-derived product could potentially exert stronger health benefits. The aim of the present study was to obtain a cocoa powder with a higher flavonoid content (mainly enriched in monomer compounds) and assess its flavonoid bioavailability in humans. For this purpose, an unfermented, nonroasted, and blanch-treated cocoa powder (A) was obtained. The powder contained four times more procyanidins than a conventional (B) cocoa powder. Powder A contained eight times more epicatechin and procyanidin B2 than powder B. Cocoa milk drinks were prepared with powder A (MDA) and B (MDB). The bioavailability of flavonoids in both drinks was assessed in a crossover intervention with healthy volunteers. The content of epicatechin glucuronide, the main metabolite detected in plasma, was five-fold higher upon consumption of MDA as compared with MDB. The urinary excretion of metabolites, mainly methyl epicatechin sulfate, was higher upon MDA consumption as compared with MDB, ranging from two- to 12-fold higher depending on the metabolite. These results, together with previous reports regarding the cardiovascular benefits linked to the presence of procyanidin metabolites in plasma, suggest that further clinical trials to validate the health benefits of a flavonoid-enriched cocoa powder are warranted.

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