Cocoa Could Prevent Intestinal Pathologies Such As Colon
26 Jan 2012
A new study on living animals has shown for the first time that eating cocoa
(the raw material in chocolate) can help to prevent intestinal complaints
linked to oxidative stress, including colon carcinogenesis onset caused by
The growing interest amongst the scientific community to identify those
foods capable of preventing diseases has now categorized cocoa as a 'superfood'.
It has been recognised as an excellent source of phytochemical compounds,
which offer potential health benefits.
Headed by scientists from the Institute of Food Science and Technology and
Nutrition (ICTAN) and recently published in the Molecular
Nutrition & Food Research journal,
the new study supports this idea and upholds that cacao consumption helps to
prevent intestinal complaints linked to oxidative stress, such as the onset
of chemically induced colon carcinogenesis.
"Being exposed to different poisons in the diet like toxins, mutagens and
procarcinogens, the intestinal mucus is very susceptible to pathologies,"
explains María Angeles Martín Arribas, lead author of the study and
researcher at ICTAN. She adds that "foods like cocoa, which is rich in
polyphenols, seems to play an important role in protecting against
The study on live animals (rats) has for the first time confirmed the
potential protection effect that flavonoids in cocoa have against colon
cancer onset. For eight weeks the authors of the study fed the rats with a
cocoa-rich (12%) diet and carcinogenesis was induced.
Doctor Martín Arribas outlines that "four weeks after being administered
with the chemical compound azoxymethane (AOM), intestinal mucus from
premalignant neoplastic lesions appeared. These lesions are called 'aberrant
crypt foci' and are considered to be good markers of colon cancer
The results of the study showed that the rats fed a cocoa-rich diet had a
significantly reduced number of aberrant crypts in the colon induced by the
carcinogen. Likewise, this sample saw an improvement in their endogenous
antioxidant defences and a decrease in the markers of oxidative damage
induced by the toxic compound in this cell.
The researchers conclude that the protection effect of cocoa can stop cell-signalling
pathways involved in cell proliferation and, therefore, subsequent neoplasty
and tumour formation. Lastly, the animals fed with the cocoa-rich diet
showed an increase in apoptosis or programmed cell death as a
chemoprevention mechanism against the development of the carcinogenesis.
Although more research is required to determine what bioactive compounds in
cocoa are responsible for such effects, the authors conclude that a
cocoa-rich diet seems capable of reducing induced oxidative stress. It could
also have protection properties in the initial stages of colon cancer as it
reduces premalignant neoplastic lesion formation.
A not-so-guilty pleasure
Cocoa is one of the ingredients in chocolate. It is one of the richest foods
in phenolic compounds, mainly in flavonoids like procyanidins, catechins and
epicatechins, which have numerous beneficial biological activities in the
prevention of cardiovascular diseases and cancer (mainly colorectal
In fact, compared to other foods with a high flavonoid content, cocoa has a
high level of procyanidins with limited bioavailability. These flavonoids
are therefore found in their highest concentrations in the intestine where
they neutralise many oxidants.
ldefonso Rodríguez-Ramiro, Sonia Ramos, Elvira López-Oliva, Angel Agis-Torres,
Miren Gómez-Juaristi, Raquel Mateos, Laura Bravo, Luis Goya, María Ángeles
Martín. "Cocoa-rich diet prevents azoxymethane-induced colonic preneoplastic
lesions in rats by restraining oxidative stress and cell proliferation and
inducing apoptosis". Molecular
Nutrition & Food Research,
55:1895-1899, diciembre de 2011. DOI 10.1002/mnfr.201100363.
FECYT - Spanish
Foundation for Science and Technology
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Intestinal Pathologies Such As Colon Cancer." Medical
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5 Feb. 2012. <http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/240733.php>
FECYT - Spanish Foundation for Science and Technol. (2012, January 26).
"Cocoa Could Prevent Intestinal Pathologies Such As Colon Cancer." Medical