Have you heard anything about cocoa husks? They’re a by- product of the chocolate industry that researchers have discovered to be rich in soluble and insoluble fiber. In fact, when cocoa husks first appeared in nutritional trials, they were marketed as a weight-loss tool. But now, researchers are finding that this functional food is capable of a whole lot more when it comes to health benefits.
Researchers at the Spanish National Research Council in Madrid recently conducted a study, noting the health benefits of dietary fiber and polyphenols in reducing risk of heart disease — two nutrients cocoa husks are high in. But in order to delve a little further into cocoa husks’ healing properties, they attempted to assess whether they could improve a person’s lipid profile, serum glucose, and antioxidant activity, as well as blood pressure.
For the study, 21 people with moderately elevated levels of cholesterol in their blood volunteered to participate. They were non-vegetarian, non-smoking women and men between 18 and 45 years old and were not suffering from any other chronic condition. The volunteers consumed two servings a day of a cocoa product made from cocoa husks. This, the researchers said, provided 12 grams of dietary fiber and 283 milligrams of soluble polyphenols.
Blood samples were drawn and systolic and diastolic blood pressures were evaluated at the baseline, and at weeks two, four, and eight. Serum lipids, creatinine, uric acid, glucose, C-reactive protein, and antioxidant power were analyzed as well.
The research team found that both glucose and blood pressure decreased. HDL cholesterol (the good kind) slightly increased. They concluded that cocoa husks might be considered part of a dietary approach or a functional food to achieve blood pressure-lowering and cholesterol- lowering effects in adults with moderately elevated levels of cholesterol.
There is now talk of using fiber from cocoa husks in the production of low-calorie, high-fiber foods. Watch for this ingredient in some of the foods you buy — such as cereal and breads. A fiber supplement that could boost your antioxidant consumption may also become available.
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