The FDA recently approved a new health claim for high-flavonol cocoa powder, which can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease – this according to the latest science.
Any food product that contains at least 200 milligrams (mg) of cocoa flavonols per serving and at least four percent concentration with naturally conserved cocoa flavonols can now bear the claim that it helps to support heart health.
The approval came five years after a filing was made with the FDA in 2018 to allow cocoa flavonol health claims on food products that contain the nutrient. The FDA was reluctant to grant its blessing, claiming that the scientific evidence is still very limited, but it was granted nonetheless.
(Related: Cocoa flavonols can also help boost brain performance and prevent cognitive decline.)
The reason why the FDA established a 200 mg threshold for the claim has to do with the results of human clinical trials showing that cocoa flavonols at a concentration of anywhere from 500 mg to 1,000 mg help not just the heart but also the entire metabolic system.
New guidelines from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends that people consume between 400 mg and 600 mg of cocoa flavonols per day in order to derive these benefits, but the FDA has agreed to a 200 mg minimum for associated health claims.
Researchers from Harvard University conducted an extensive five-year, 21,400-person placebo-controlled COSMOS study into cocoa flavonols, the results of which were recently published in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
The paper found that consuming 500 mg of cocoa flavonols per day significantly reduces one's risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, as well as suffering a major cardiovascular event.
Compared to those taking a placebo, patients who consumed 500 mg per day of cocoa flavonols experienced a 27 percent reduction in cardiovascular death risk, which is hardly insignificant.
It should not be overlooked that this is the first new dietary guideline the FDA has ever recommended based not on a nutrient deficiency but rather on an improvement of health outcomes.
Instead of it being a claim about how Americans need to consume such-and-such amount of cocoa flavonols every day in order to avoid becoming deficient, the FDA is allowing food producers who use cocoa flavonols to make the claim that adding these nutrients to one's diet can improve overall health outcomes.
The FDA's expert guideline panel looked at not just the Harvard study but also more than 150 randomized controlled trials and 15 cohort studies on cocoa flavonols before informing these new guidelines.
Consuming cocoa flavonols daily may also help to lower the risk of diabetes while also improving blood pressure, cholesterol concentrations, and blood sugar.
The best way to intake more flavonols of all varieties is to consume more nutrient-dense, high-flavonol foods, which in addition to cocoa include tea, apples, and berries, among others.
And, to be clear, the FDA wants America to know that this is a "food-based recommendation," and not a recommendation for people to take flavonol dietary supplements.
The FDA has something of a vendetta against dietary supplements and their associated health claims, probably because the agency is restricted from regulating them in the same way it does pharmaceutical drugs.
One thing to be aware of is the fact that cocoa plants are known to uptake toxic chemicals like lead and cadmium, so beware of where you source your cocoa.
Interested in learning more about the healing power of natural foods? You can do so at Cures.news.
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