Cocoa extract refers to the bioactive compounds found in cocoa products. These compounds include flavanols, procyanidins and (-)-epicatechin. Though these molecules are not unique to cocoa, cocoa extract contains a particularly high level of (-)-epicatechin, compared to other plant products.
Supplementing cocoa extract or eating dark chocolate is linked to better blood flow and improved insulin sensitivity.
Preliminary research suggests (-)-epicatechin may also provide benefits for longevity by increasing blood flow and oxygenation in the brain. Though this effect has not been linked to improved memory or cognitive performance, it may play a protective role during aging. Some evidence also suggests (-)-epicatechin can help mitigate the effects of impaired mitochondria.
When (-)-epicatechin is absorbed by the body, it activates an insulin signaling pathway, which causes a mild increase in glucose uptake. Increased glucose uptake means the body is able to take in sugar from the blood more effectively. Supplementing (-)-epicatechin also increase the production of nitric oxide, a molecule that widens blood vessels and improves blood flow.
Eating about 26-40g of dark chocolate products containing at least 75% cocoa makes supplementing cocoa extract and (-)-epicatechin unnecessary. This is about 200 calories of dark chocolate, a bit less than a standard candy bar. Products low in cocoa, like milk chocolate and white chocolate, do not replace supplementation. Cocoa extract is a safe supplement that promotes circulation and effective energy production. It has great potential long-term benefits, whether the (-)-epicatechin comes from supplements or food products.