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Nutr Metab (Lond). 2012 Apr 18;9:33. doi: 10.1186/1743-7075-9-33.

Effects of regularly consuming dietary fibre rich soluble cocoa products on bowel habits in healthy subjects: a free-living, two-stage, randomized, crossover, single-blind intervention.

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Department of Metabolism and Nutrition, Institute of Food Science, Technology and Nutrition (ICTAN), Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), José Antonio Nováis 10, 28040 Madrid, Spain.



Dietary fibre is both preventive and therapeutic for bowel functional diseases. Soluble cocoa products are good sources of dietary fibre that may be supplemented with this dietary component. This study assessed the effects of regularly consuming two soluble cocoa products (A and B) with different non-starch polysaccharides levels (NSP, 15.1 and 22.0% w/w, respectively) on bowel habits using subjective intestinal function and symptom questionnaires, a daily diary and a faecal marker in healthy individuals.


A free-living, two-stage, randomized, crossover, single-blind intervention was carried out in 44 healthy men and women, between 18-55 y old, who had not taken dietary supplements,laxatives, or antibiotics six months before the start of the study. In the four-week-long intervention stages, separated by a three-week-wash-out stage, two servings of A and B, that provided 2.26 vs. 6.60 g/day of NSP respectively, were taken. In each stage, volunteers' diet was recorded using a 72-h food intake report.


Regularly consuming cocoa A and B increased fibre intake, although only cocoa B significantly increased fibre intake (p < 0.001) with respect to the non-cocoa stage. No changes in body weight were observed in either of the 4 week interventions. With cocoa product B, the number of daily bowel movements increased (p = 0.002), the frequency of having a bowel movement once a day increased (p = 0.009), the time to have a bowel movement was lower (p = 0.016) as well as the feeling of constipation (p = 0.046) without inducing adverse gastrointestinal symptoms, only flatulence increased (p = 0.019).


Regular consumption of the cocoa products increases dietary fibre intake to recommended levels and product B improves bowel habits. The use of both objective and subjective assessments to evaluate the effects of food on bowel habits is recommended.

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