As with many things internet based, a lot of information is copied and pasted, has a dash of creative license, a sprinkling of Chinese whispers and boom you have a new superfood or a superherb. When we select our products we look for the most effective and the very best quality. So we research, then research some more, and provide all of that research here, so that you can make up your own mind.
Cacaos high levels of Polyphenols (anti-oxidants) are made up of micro-nutrients / antioxidants, one being 'flavan-3-ols' (sometimes referred to as flavanols - with an 'a' not an 'o' for flavonols, these are different). Raw Cacao Beans contain approximately 10% flavan-3-ols, that's a massive 10 grams of per 100 grams, but be careful as. (13, 14)
Cacaos anti-oxidative effects have been suggested to possess; anti-inflammatory and DNA repair activities—DNA being the building blocks of the body and its functions—when the DNA is compromised it has the potential to be more susceptible to disease. (5, 10, 18)
A study was carried out based on the current "Super-food" and "Super-fruit" phenomenon, in an effort to try to clarify where fruits / foods sit on the scale-based on their anti-oxidant profile. When compared to acai, blueberry, cranberry and pomegranate, Cacao powder came out on top with more than double that of the other powdered fruits. (12).
See the other benefits below to see the full extent of Cacaos polyphenols and their impact on your health!
Cacao also contains one of the highest levels of magnesium in the natural world, the Cacao bean for instance contains approx, 300mg per 100g (comparatively to almonds that contain around 80mg per 100g (in rare cases it has even been as high as 500mg per 100g)) — for health, females require around 300mg and men around 420mg per day. Magnesium is key in supporting the human body, it is required for blood sugar control, nerve and muscle function, energy production, helps develop bones, and protein synthesis (to name just a few).
Due to all these actions in the body, when you have the right levels of Magnesium in the system your body is able to preform optimally.
IMMUNE SUPPORT and ANTI-INFLAMMATORY (Pain relief)
The immune system is responsible for many things, as Cacao is classified as an IMMUNOMODULATOR, it has many abilities when it comes to the immune system as well s inflammation. Compounds in Cacao have been studied to potentially reduce the break down of the essential amino acid, Tryptophan, which studies suggest may stimulate the immune system. Tryptophan is also a precursor for (helps create); Serotonin (feeling of wellbeing and happiness) and Niacin/Vitamin B3 (lacking Niacin may cause nausea, headaches, tiredness, anemia, skin and mouth lesions). (23)
Studies have been performed surrounding the benefits of the anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of Cacaos polyphenols, suggest that they may promote anti-tumor effects. (23, 5, 7)
For tumors to grow they need to form blood vessels, this is called 'Angiogenesis'. The proanthocyanidin component of the polyphenols (anti-oxidant micro-nutrients) within Cacao have been shown to have anti-angiogenesis effects. (2, 13)
Other recent studies suggest that when you consume foods and/or beverages containing theobromine (abundant in Cacao), they can be effective in preventing glioblastoma—which is the most common form of brain tumor. (1) The anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of Cacaos polyphenols have also been suggested by to promote anti-tumor effects and enhance the efficacy of cancer drug treatments (tamoxifen, which is used to treat breast cancer). (4)
The awesome contents of the polyphenols (micro-nutrients) in Cacao have been shown to have an anti-inflammatory effect. (6, 15, 23, 24, 25)
INFLAMMATION (Mood, Cognitive Performance)
The compounds in cacao that are responsible for mood and cognitive enhancement can be classified as nootropics. Various compounds in cacao have been shown to impact mood. They either do this within the body via their own bioactivities or through an indirect activity such as aiding a reduction in inflammation, these compounds are: Polyphenols, Theobromine, Anandamide, Phenylethlamine, Tryptophan and Serotonin.
Another bitter bioactive compound in Cacao is the theobromine, this compound effects your mood (similarly to caffeine, but without the unwanted side effects), It has also been suggested that it has an anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant capacity. Interestingly, studies have shown that the theobromine in Cacao aids the absorption of the polyphenols in Cacao.
NOTE: Theobromine is the compound that can be toxic to dogs, cats and other animals, causing a variety of symptoms including; hyperactivity, trembling, vomiting, diarrhoea and in some instances seizures and possible death. :(
The name comes from ananda, the Sanskrit word for "bliss". Anandamide (AEA) is classified as a fatty acid nootropic classed as a canabinoid as it impacts the nervous system and binds to the canabinoid receptors in the brain. Anandamide has also been shown to potentially have anti-inflammatory effects as well as a calming and mood lifting, "bliss effect". So anandamide doesn't only help you feel blissful directly, but is also helps prevent the breakdown of other compounds that make you feel blissful - Nature is PHENOMENAL!
- PHENYLETHYLAMINE (PEA), TRYPTOPHAN, SERATONIN
It has been suggested that phenylethylamine has the ability to increase dopamine (which is another pleasure receptor in the brain). From the science that we have found, it suggests that this in only found in cacao in trace amounts (around 3mg per kg), and you need around 400mg per day...
Not only does cacao help prevent the breakdown of tryptophan, but it has been shown to contain trace amounts of the compound which is the precursor for seratonin, and also trace amounts of seratonin (approx. 2.7mg per 100g).
Although these may not be a primary active compounds, they certainly add to Cacaos healthy compound arsenal.
Skin ageing is complex and inevitable, but we can do things to nourish our skin, both topically and via the diet and we can glow. Because cacaos polyphenols possess anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory, anti-oxidative and DNA repair activities, when cacao is regularly used topically and/or as food, it may help protect against a variety of skin disorders caused by excessive exposure to the suns UV rays — UV damage is a huge cause of premature skin ageing and damages cells deeper than the skins surface — anti-aging, can't go wrong with that! (18, 10)
Studies have suggested that if you consume cacao during pregnancy, it can potentially prevent preeclapmsia. (Ensure you consult your doctor before changing your diet when pregnant). (8)
Atherosclerosis is where plaque builds up in your arteries and can effect any artery in the body. Plaque is made up of fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances found in the blood, which can lead to heart attack or stroke. Studies suggest that the polyphenols in Cacao may help inhibit the development of Atherosclerosis by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation. (15)
Uric Acid Kidney Stone form from the uric acid increasing in the urine and solidifying creating the kidney stone. Scientific studies suggest that the theobromine in cacao products inhibits the formation of the uric acid into stones, and so may be useful clinically. (7)
Where probiotics provide good bacteria to the gut, prebiotics provide nourishment for the good bacteria. The Polyphenol (flavanols) in Cacao potentially also act as a prebiotic and probiotic for various microbiota. (16, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26)