Study Adds Support for Potential Health Benefits of Cocoa Flavanols

A new study published today in Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association, conducted by Tufts University in Boston and the University of L'Aquila in Italy, suggests that consuming flavanol-rich products might lower blood pressure and improve insulin resistance among people with hypertension.

These initial findings offer additional support to the 15 years of research that Mars, Inc. and its university collaborators have pioneered into understanding the health benefits of cocoa flavanols. Cocoa flavanols are the naturally-occurring compounds found in certain cocoas that appear to be the key to driving heart health benefits.

With the introduction of its CocoaVia line of fortified products, Mars' new Nutrition for Health & Well-Being business unit is making a dramatic entry into the wellness foods segment.

“Mars is thrilled that other research groups are now beginning to add to this exciting body of science,” says Dr. Harold Schmitz, Chief Science Officer at Mars. “Mars believes that truly unlocking the public health benefits offered by this science in the future will be achieved by focusing on cocoa flavanols.”

Schmitz adds that while a few chocolates do contain a significant amount of flavanols, it must be kept in mind that chocolate is a high-calorie treat that should be consumed in moderation. And consumers need to be aware that it is not all chocolate – even all dark chocolate – that can provide the potential cardiovascular benefits highlighted in the many research studies over the last several years. The key appears to be the presence of naturally-occurring cocoa flavanol compounds, not whether the chocolate is milk chocolate or dark chocolate, or even if the flavanols are consumed in the form of chocolate at all.

Mars holds more than 30 patents related to cocoa flavanols, including a process to retain much of these compounds during processing of the cocoa. The company has pioneered cocoa flavanol scientific research for more than 15 years in partnership with some of the world's most respected universities and institutions, including Harvard University and the University of California, Davis.

“In fact, we have taken it one step further and begun moving these exciting findings from the laboratory into the product development process,” notes Marlene Machut, Mars Nutrition communications director. “To leverage the research from Mars cocoa science program, we have created Mars Nutrition for Health & Well-Being, a new business unit dedicated to the development of new foods, snacks, beverages and lifestyle support to better serve the nutritional and well-being needs of consumers.“

The Mars Nutrition for Health & Well-Being business unit has already launched its first snack called CocoaVia, available online at www.cocoavia.com. The snack bars have 80 calories per serving and a nutrition profile that includes heart-healthy ingredients, vitamins and minerals with a premium chocolate. Rich in the flavanols preserved by a special process, CocoaVia is purposely designed to deliver both chocolate pleasure and real heart-health benefits. CocoaVia will be followed by a number of food solutions targeting a variety of nutritional needs and benefits in the months to come.
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