New study reveals components of cocoa may enhance the appearance of the skin

May 22, 2006

Cocoa butter has long been used topically in many skin creams and cosmetics because it is thought to be good for the skin. Now, new research just published in the Journal of Nutrition reveals the potential benefits of consuming flavanol-rich cocoa and how it might actually benefit skin from the inside out.

Researchers found that certain components in cocoa may actually help improve the appearance of women's skin - increasing hydration, decreasing skin roughness and scaling, and helping to support the skin's defense against UV damage. The German scientists attributed the observed benefits to cocoa flavanols - a group of compounds that can be particularly rich in cocoa and that have been previously reported to improve blood flow and vessel function.

In this new study, 24 healthy women (aged 18 to 65) were randomly assigned to two groups. One group drank a high-flavanol Cocoapro® cocoa beverage (329 mg) once a day, while the other group consumed a matched cocoa beverage low in flavanols (27 mg). At three different periods during the 12-week study, various tests were conducted to evaluate skin properties: sensitivity to UV irradiation, skin blood flow, skin structure and texture, and skin hydration.

The women who regularly consumed the high-flavanol cocoa beverage showed significant improvements in these indicators of skin quality, while those who consumed the flavanol-poor cocoa did not have an improvement in any of the measures.

"We are excited by the extent of improvements to the skin," said Catherine Kwik-Uribe, PhD, senior research scientist at Mars, Incorporated, which has supported and conducted much of the research on cocoa flavanol health, including this new study. "Much of the interest in skin health has focused on what you put on the skin. From our extensive research on cocoa flavanols over the last several years demonstrating their potential positive benefits on circulation, it is rewarding to see that these benefits may extend to skin quality as well."

In addition to the improvements in skin quality in study participants, this study is the first to suggest that the regular consumption of cocoa flavanols may support human skin's defense against UV light. Study participants exhibited a reduction in the redness of skin following exposure to artificial sunlight. The authors of the study believe the skin benefits of cocoa flavanols may be due in part to an improvement in blood flow to the skin. Consistent with previous studies that demonstrated significant improvements in vessel function, in this study, the regular consumption of flavanol-rich cocoa resulted in a significant increase in blood flow to the skin's surface, effects that were sustained with the regular consumption of cocoa flavanols.
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This is the latest study supported by Mars to demonstrate potential health benefits of cocoa flavanols. The Journal of the American College of Cardiology named another recent study of cocoa flavanols and blood vessel function by a collaborative group of researchers in Germany, the University of California, Davis and Mars to be one of the major advancements in cardiovascular research in 2005. (DeMaria AN et al. Highlights of the Year in JACC 2005. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 2006; 47(1):184-202.)

Working in collaboration with top research institutions throughout the world, the company continues to lead the way in exploring the full nutritional and medical potential of cocoa's naturally occurring flavanols. For more than 15 years, Mars' commitment to research is evidenced by the 85 peer-reviewed research publications on cocoa and the more than 30 patents held by Mars scientists.

Scientists at Mars, Incorporated developed a patented process called Cocoapro® that helps retain consistent level of flavanols that occur naturally in cocoa beans. The flavanol-rich beverage in this study was prepared using the Cocoapro process to enable the elevated levels of cocoa flavanols. Mars products that are made with the Cocoapro process include Dove® Dark Chocolate and CocoaVia®, a new line of heart healthy snacks that are guaranteed to contain at least 100 mg of cocoa flavanols per serving.

For more information on the many research studies on cocoa flavanols, visit www.cocoapro.com.

Mars, Incorporated is one of the world's top producers of chocolate, and has a strong commitment to health research. With well over 15 years of research into the health benefits of cocoa flavanols, and decades of research invested into improving the cocoa plant and farming techniques, Mars, Incorporated has become the global leader in cocoa science. Mars uses patented and proprietary methods of processing cocoa beans to retain much of the naturally occurring flavanols, marking these products with the Cocoapro® seal, a hand holding a cocoa bean to signify the careful handling.

Heinrich U, Neukam K, Tronnier H, Sies H, Wilhelm S. Long-term ingestion of high flavanol cocoa provides photoprotection against UV-induced erythema and improves skin condition in women. Journal of Nutrition. 2006;136:1-5.

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