Study suggests cocoa might thwart colon cancer

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Cocoa might protect from colon cancer, finds rat study

In a first study, scientists have found cocoa might help kill cells pre-cancerous lesions in the intestines to thwart colon cancer. Researchers from the Institute of Food Science and Technology and Nutrition (ICTAN) studied rats to find cocoa's benefits for protecting from the disease.

The benefits of cocoa have recently been discovered. According to a study published in the Chemistry Central Journal, February 2011, there are more antioxidants and polyphenols in raw cocoa that in some fruits.

The newest study, published in the Molecular Nutrition & Food Research journal, supports the notion that cocoa may be a ‘super food’ that can promote colon health because it reduces oxidative stress that can lead to abnormal cell growth and cancer.

For their study, researchers induced cancer in rats with the chemical compound azoxymethane (AOM). Rats given a cocoa rich diet were found by the scientists to have fewer pre-cancerous lesions, which are known as 'aberrant crypt foci'.


Cocoa contains flavonoids including procyanidins, catechins and epicatechins, which can help prevent of heart diseases and cancer (mainly colorectal cancer). Catechins and epicatechins are also found in tea.

The authors concluded, “Our findings provide the first in vivo evidence that a cocoa-rich diet may inhibit the early stage of colon carcinogenesis probably by preventing oxidative stress and cell proliferation and by inducing apoptosis.”

The study authors also found a cocoa rich diet was associated with higher rates of aptosis or programmed cell death to stop colon cancer tumors from developing. The finding suggests cocoa might thwart colon cancer, but more research is needed to understand how.

Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, 55:1895-1899: doi 10.1002/mnfr.201100363
"Cocoa-rich diet prevents azoxymethane-induced colonic preneoplastic lesions in rats by restraining oxidative stress and cell proliferation and inducing apoptosis".
lldefonso Rodríguez-Ramiro, et al.
December, 2011

Chemistry Central Journal 2011, 5:5doi:10.1186/1752-153X-5-5
"Cacao seeds are a "Super Fruit": A comparative analysis of various fruit powders and products"
Stephen J Crozier et al.
February, 2011

Image credit: Wikimedia commons


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