Over the past several years, health food aficionados and wellness experts have been touting the merits of dark chocolate and bitter cocoa for cardiovascular and mental health. Now, a new study is geared towards knowing cocoa better. Specifically, can cocoa help people age better and in a healthier manner?
Recently launched at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital in collaboration with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research center, the Cocoa Supplement and Multivitamin Outcomes Study (COSMOS) Trial is analyzing information taken from a 21,444-respondent focus group to determine if a supplement extracted from cocoa, used with or in the place of multivitamin supplements, can impact a number of health problems, particularly those that grow worse as the body ages.
For this phase of the study, researchers will be looking at the blood of 600 participants, all of whom are 60 years old or older. The study’s objective is to see whether cocoa and derivatives thereof such as dark chocolate and supplemental extracts can help lower the risk of cardiovascular disorders, cancer, and other common diseases.
It has been noted that many of the health benefits from chocolate come from antioxidant flavanols. Flavanols can produce a powerful anti-inflammatory response. Eating dark chocolate, particularly products with 70% or more cocoa solids, has been noted by a number of medical researchers to lower cholesterol and blood pressure. They have also been observed to improve cognitive function in aging brains and even boost the immune system.
Cocoa, being the purest form of chocolate, has a significantly higher amount of these beneficial flavanols. However, scientists still have to determine why they are good for human health and how much of them are necessary to stay healthy.
The COSMOS trial
The COSMOS Trial is the largest scientific study that aims to answer these questions, particularly because inflammation within the body is one factor that exacerbates common illnesses as one grows older. In fact, aside from obvious inflammatory disorders like rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, inflammation has also been noted in cases of cardiac arrest, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and various forms of cancer.
Specifically, researchers will be looking at several primary indicators of one’s biological age, including inflammaging (a chronic form of low-grade inflammation which occurs in advanced age) and epigenetic aging. The study’s main hypothesis revolves around how cocoa supplementation can help mitigate both epigenetic aging and inflammaging to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases in those aged 65 and older. In addition, the study aims to prove if these supplements drive improvements in an individual’s health by reducing epigenetic changes.