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Drugs derived from chocolate? Candymaker Mars in talks.

Drugs derived from chocolate? Candymaker Mars in talks.

Drugs derived from chocolate? Candy-maker Mars in talks.
July 25, 2005

Mars, Incorporated, the privately held U.S. company company that produces M&Ms, Twix, Snickers and other confectionaries is in talks with several large pharmaceutical companies to develop medications based on flavanols — plant chemicals with health benefits found in cocoa, according to a report from Reuters.

Flavonoids are naturally-occurring compounds found in plant-based foods that have been shown to have a number of health-benefiting properties including anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic, and anti-cancer activity. Cocoa, especially dark chocolate, has high amounts of the flavonoid Epicatechin and has been found to have nearly twice the antioxidants of red wine and up to three times those found in green tea. Epicatechin may improve blood flow and may have potential applications for cardiac health. Two recent clinical trials have found that cocoa flavanols can boost the flow of blood to key areas of the brain, giving scientists hope for developing treatments for dementia and strokes. Another study found potential applications for treating blood circulation problems associated with long-term diabetes.

Mars has spent 15 years and more than $10 million is researching the potential health benefits of compounds found in cocoa and has developed hundreds of compounds that mimic the aspirin-like blood-thinning properties of cocoa flavanols.

Cacao Pod in Honduras. Cacao plants are cauliflorous, meaning their flowers and fruit grow directly out of their trunk.

Cocoa are made from the beans of the cacao tree, which originated in the foothills of the Andes in the Amazon and Orinoco basins of South America. Chocolate was introduced to Europe by the Spaniards and became a popular beverage by about 1700.

The idea that compounds found in cocoa may have medical applications does not come as a big surprise to some scientists. Flavonoids are known to play an important protective role in plants through their antimicrobial properties and by assisting in the healing of wounds by lignification of cell walls surrounding the damaged areas.

This news item used information from Wikipedia, Reuters, and Mars, Incorporated.

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