Cocoa may Cut Colon Cancer Risks

Colon cancer slow to develop in cocoa rich environment

(RxWiki News) Food as medicine is an increasing area of research interest. The scientific community has even labeled various foods so-called "super foods." And one of those is the main ingredient in chocolate.

Cocoa, which is the raw material in chocolate, can help to prevent intestinal difficulties including colon carcinogenesis (the process of cancer development) caused by chemical substances, according to a new study.

"Enjoy high quality cocoa in moderation; it's good for you."

A new study from the Institute of Food Science and Technology and Nutrition (ICTAN) found that cocoa protects the intestines against the onslaught of dietary toxins.

ICTAN research and lead study author, María Ángeles Martín Arribas, explained, "Being exposed to different poisons in the diet like toxins, mutagens and procarcinogens, the intestinal mucus is very susceptible to pathologies,"

She adds that "foods like cocoa, which is rich in polyphenols, seems to play an important role in protecting against disease."

Headed by scientists from the Institute of Food Science and Technology and Nutrition (ICTAN) and recently published in the Molecular Nutrition & Food Research journal, the new study supports this idea and upholds that cacao consumption helps to prevent intestinal complaints linked to oxidative stress, such as the onset of chemically induced colon carcinogenesis.

"Being exposed to different poisons in the diet like toxins, mutagens and procarcinogens, the intestinal mucus is very susceptible to pathologies," explains María Ángeles Martín Arribas, lead author of the study and researcher at ICTAN. She adds that "foods like cocoa, which is rich in polyphenols, seems to play an important role in protecting against disease."

For this study, rats were fed a diet that was made up of 12 percent cocoa, then the researchers created an environment for cancer to develop.

Four weeks after being given the carcinogen azoxymethane, precancerous lesions known as aberrant crypt foci  appeared. These lesions usually indicate colon cancer is developing.

The animals on the cocoa-rich diet had significantly fewer ACF appear. They also showed signs of improved antioxidant defenses and fewer makers of damage caused by the toxic compound.

Researchers say these findings show that cocoa seems to have a protective effect against tumor formation. The animals that had a chocoholic's dream diet also saw an increase in programmed cell death, which also guarded against the formation of cancer.

Cocoa is one of the richest foods in what's known as phenolic compounds which have a number of beneficial qualities in preventing disease - particularly heart disease.

Mark Bans, D.C. of Bans Health and Wellness in Austin, tells dailyRx, "We need to be careful about how we view the results of this study. One eating a standard chocolate candy bar off a grocery store shelf would not get the same results from chocolate as someone eating an organic, high cocoa percentage chocolate bar.

"One needs to keep an eye out for sugar as well. So, while it's great to see study results show that something we enjoy can have healthy properties to it, we need to not use it as an excuse to over eat chocolate or to eat chocolate in a form that is unhealthy for our bodies," Dr. Bans said.

This research was published in the Molecular Nutrition & Food Research.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
February 6, 2012