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Cocoa Flavanols May Increase Levels Of Beneficial Human Gut Bacteria

December 1, 2010: 11:27 AM EST

A new study suggests that consumption of cocoa flavanols—through drinking cocoa or eating dark chocolate, for example—may have a positive effect on human gut bacteria. Flavanols, or flavan-3-ols, belong to a group of plant chemical compounds called flavonoids, known primarily for their cardiovascular and antioxidant benefits. Published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, and led by University of Reading’s Jeremy Spencer, PhD., this is the first study to show the prebiotic benefits of cocoa flavanols—particularly the growth of specific gut bacteria Bifidobacterium spp. and Lactobacillus spp. These help to reduce levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), high levels of which are associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Xenofon Tzounis, Ana Rodriguez-Mateos, Jelena Vulevic, Glenn R Gibson, Catherine Kwik-Uribe, Jeremy PE Spencer, "Prebiotic evaluation of cocoa-derived flavanols in healthy humans by using a randomized, controlled, double-blind, crossover intervention study", The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, December 01, 2010, © American Society for Nutrition
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