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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Supplementation of cocoa powder in the diet of high-fat-fed mice with liver disease markedly reduced the severity of their condition, according to a new study by Penn State researchers, who suggest the results have implications for people.
Cocoa powder, a popular food ingredient most commonly used in the production of chocolate, is rich in fiber, iron and phytochemicals reported to have positive health benefits, including antioxidant polyphenols and methylxanthines, noted study leader Joshua Lambert, professor of food science in the College of Agricultural Sciences.
“While it is typically considered an indulgence food because of its high sugar and fat content, epidemiological and human-intervention studies have suggested that chocolate consumption is associated with reduced risk of cardio-metabolic diseases including stroke, coronary heart disease and Type 2 diabetes,” Lambert said. “So, it made sense to investigate whether cocoa consumption had an effect on non-alcohol-related fatty liver disease, which is commonly associated with human obesity.”
This study has several strengths, Lambert explained. It used a commercially available cocoa product at a “physiologically achievable dose” — meaning its equivalent could be duplicated by humans. “Doing the calculations, for people it works out to about 10 tablespoons of cocoa powder a day,” he said. “Or, if you follow the directions on the Hershey’s box of cocoa powder, that’s about five cups of hot cocoa a day.”