Colon cancer is the third leading cause of cancer deaths annually, a statistic that remains constant despite increased awareness of the deadly disease. Researchers from the Science and Technology Institute of Food and Nutrition in Spain have published the result of a study in the journal Molecular Nutrition & Food Research detailing the potent anti-carcinogenic effect of the natural chocolate compound, cocoa.
Scientists determined for the first time that regular consumption of cocoa negates the inflammatory effect of digestive oxidative stress that results in intestinal complaints and is a precursor to the genesis of colon cancer. Cocoa is now considered a ‘superfood’ as it has been shown to improve blood lipids and help prevent cardiovascular disease in past research. The result of this current study demonstrates that a daily dose of the compound can help prevent colon cancer progression.
Cocoa Polyphenols from Dark Chocolate Significantly Lower Colon Cancer Risk
Researchers studied rats that had been fed a cocoa-rich diet consisting of twelve percent cocoa, as compared to a control group that received the same diet with the chocolate compound enrichment. Both groups were exposed to a chemical known to induce colon cancer. Animals such as mice and rats have been used for decades to conduct this type of research because they exhibit a similar line of carcinogenesis that is comparable to humans.
The study leader, Dr. Maria Angeles Martin Arribas noted “Being exposed to different poisons in the diet like toxins, mutagens and pro-carcinogens, the intestinal mucus is very susceptible to pathologies… foods like cocoa, which is rich in polyphenols, seems to play an important role in protecting against disease.” After a period of eight weeks, the scientists were able to confirm the protective effect of cocoa polyphenols in protecting against this insidious form of digestive cancer.
Cocoa is a Potent Antioxidant Shown to Neutralize the Effect of Dietary Carcinogens
The study results showed a marked decrease in the number of pre-malignant neoplastic crypts in the lining of the colon in the cocoa treated group as compared to the control animals. Further, the researchers found a rise in antioxidant defenses in the supplemented rats and a decrease in oxidative stress biomarkers that are known to be protective against chemical exposure and the prevention of colorectal cancer.
The team concluded that the protective effect of the bioactive compounds in cocoa stopped cell-signaling pathways that typically promote cell proliferation and lead to tumor development. The treated animals also exhibited a much higher degree of apoptosis, or normal programmed cell death of potentially cancerous tissues. It is important to note that milk chocolate is not a good source of cocoa due to its low concentration of the polyphenol and high sugar content, known to promote cancer. Choose a dark chocolate with a minimum 70% cocoa content to significantly lower the risk associated with colorectal cancer.