A Chocolate Snack Can Lower Cholesterol Levels
New research presented today at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions reveals that plant sterols from soy added to a cocoa-based snack bar can significantly reduce cholesterol levels. This study demonstrates how certain plant nutrients can promote heart health when included in snack foods. Based on this research and decades of research on cocoa, Mars Incorporated has developed a new cocoa-based, sterol-containing snack bar, CocoaVia(tm).
This clinical research demonstrates for the first time, consumers can eat 2 CocoaVia bars a day and see significant reduction in their cholesterol levels. This is also the first time that the combination of cocoa flavanols and plant sterols are offered in a snack bar.
Researchers at University of California, Davis have already demonstrated that certain cocoa and chocolates contain naturally occurring heart healthy plant nutrients called flavanols. The study presented today examined the effect of a cocoa-based sterol containing snack food among people with high cholesterol levels. Including plant sterols from soy in the diet has been recommended by the American Heart Association and the National Cholesterol Education Program as one lifestyle change that can lower cholesterol levels significantly. In 2002, the Food and Drug Administration approved a health claim for sterols’ ability to lower heart disease risk by lowering cholesterol.
In this study, one group of 35 participants received a placebo (non-sterol containing) snack bar (the control group) twice a day while the other group of 35 participants ate the plant sterol-containing bar twice daily (the treatment group). Study participants had their cholesterol levels checked twice at the beginning of the study, again at the mid-point of the study and twice at the end of the six-week study period.
When the study began, participants had an elevated fasting total and LDL cholesterol >240 mg/dl and >160 mg/dl, respectively. At the end of the study, total and LDL cholesterol and the ratio of total:HDL cholesterol decreased significantly by 4.7%, 6% and 7.4%, respectively in those who consumed the plant sterol enriched snack bars. Plasma lipids did not change in the control group. There were no changes in body weight, blood pressure or HDL cholesterol in either treatment group.
“Plant sterols are a clinically proven ingredient that lowers cholesterol,” said Catherine Kwik-Uribe, Ph.D, Research Chemist for Mars, Incorporated, one of the study authors. “Physicians and cardiologists have recommended the sterol-containing spreads to their heart health concerned patients. Now this research shows that patients have another food option with not just the sterol benefits, but with the multiple cardiovascular benefits of cocoa flavanols and great taste, too. ”
The cocoa in the snack bar tested is rich in naturally occurring plant nutrients called flavanols. Similar to the antioxidants in tea and red wine, studies suggest that cocoa flavanols may have positive effects on heart health by reducing oxidation of LDL cholesterol, promoting healthy blood pressure, making blood vessels more pliable and maintaining healthy blood flow. Because flavanols may be destroyed during standard processing, not all cocoas contain much of the naturally occurring flavanols. However, Cocoapro®, developed by Mars, Incorporated, is the only proprietary and patented process that retains much of the natural cocoa flavanols and their potential healthful qualities. Cocoapro® cocoa was used in the bars in this study.
Mars, Incorporated used the knowledge gained from an extensive science program on cocoa flavanols for the past decade and an expertise in making snackfoods to create the CocoaVia Snack, which was used in this study. The CocoaVia bar combines plant sterols and cocoa flavanols in a complete heart healthy package.
Masterfoods USA, the United States food and snack operations of Mars, Incorporated, is one of the world’s leading food manufacturers. For nearly 15 years, Masterfoods USA has researched cocoa flavanols to identify and quantify the flavanols in cocoa and their impact on heart health. As a leader in cocoa research and confections, Masterfoods makes cocoa that provides consumers a consistently high level of naturally occurring cocoa flavanols. Masterfoods’ family of products offers a variety of foods that give consumers taste and nutrition—everything from UNCLE BEN’S® Whole Grain Brown Rice to M&M’S® Brand Chocolate Candies to CocoaVia Snack Bars. Headquartered in Hackettstown, NJ, Masterfoods USA employs more than 7,000 associates in the United States, with 15 manufacturing facilities nationwide.