Signs of chronic or acute inflammation have been demonstrated in most cardiovascular diseases of multifactorial pathogenesis, including atherosclerosis and chronic heart failure. The triggers and mechanisms leading to inflammation may vary between clinical conditions but they share many common mediators, including specific patterns of eicosanoid and cytokine production. Certain cocoa-based products can be rich in a subclass of flavonoids known as flavanols, some of which have been found in model systems to possess potential anti-inflammatory activity relevant to cardiovascular health. Indeed, experimental evidence demonstrates that some cocoa-derived flavanols can reduce the production and effect of pro-inflammatory mediators either directly or by acting on signaling pathways. However, it should be noted that the evidence for any beneficial effects of cocoa flavanols in providing a meaningful anti-inflammatory action has been gathered predominantly from in vitro experiments. Therefore, additional research in well-designed human clinical experiments, using cocoa properly characterized in terms of flavanol content, would be a welcome addition to the evidence base to determine unambiguously if this benefit does indeed exist. If so, then flavanol-rich cocoacould be a potential candidate for the treatment, or possibly prevention, of the broad array of chronic diseases that are linked to dysfunctional inflammatory responses.
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