Cocoa Extract

Last Updated: September 28 2022

Cocoa extract is a bitter mixture with a chocolate taste, made up of xanthine molecules (theobromine and caffeine) and procyanidins. Supplementing cocoa extract may provide cardiovascular and cognitive benefits through improved blood flow and antioxidant effects.

Cocoa Extract is most often used for

Summary

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.

What else is Cocoa Extract known as?
Note that Cocoa Extract is also known as:
  • Chocolate polyphenols
  • Cocoa polyphenols
  • Cacao polyphenols
  • Cacao extract
  • Chocamine
Cocoa Extract should not be confused with:
  • Chocolate (The extract paired with macronutrients)
Dosage information

Studies show that 5-26g of dark chocolate contains 65-1,095mg of flavanols. The standard dose for cocoa flavanols is 500 – 1,000mg a day, taken with meals.

Supplementing cocoa extract can be replaced by dark chocolate consumption. The recommended amount is 25 – 40 g of dark chocolate, containing at least 85% cocoa. This is about 200 calories of dark chocolate. Milk and white chocolate do not contain enough cocoa to replace supplementation.

More research is needed to determine the optimal dose of cocoa extract.

Join our supplement information course

Examine Database: Cocoa Extract
What works and what doesn't?

Unlock the full potential of Examine

Get started

Don't miss out on the latest research

References
1.^Crozier SJ, Preston AG, Hurst JW, Payne MJ, Mann J, Hainly L, Miller DLCacao seeds are a "Super Fruit": A comparative analysis of various fruit powders and productsChem Cent J.(2011 Feb 7)
3.^Gu L1, House SE, Wu X, Ou B, Prior RLProcyanidin and catechin contents and antioxidant capacity of cocoa and chocolate productsJ Agric Food Chem.(2006 May 31)
5.^Arlorio M, Locatelli M, Travaglia F, Coïsson J-D, Del Grosso E, Minassi A, Appendino G, Martelli ARoasting impact on the contents of clovamide (N-caffeoyl-L-DOPA) and the antioxidant activity of cocoa beans (Theobroma cacao L.)Food Chem.(2008 Feb)
8.^Manach C, Scalbert A, Morand C, Rémésy C, Jiménez LPolyphenols: food sources and bioavailabilityAm J Clin Nutr.(2004 May)
11.^Ghosh D, Scheepens AVascular action of polyphenolsMol Nutr Food Res.(2009 Mar)
13.^Andres-Lacueva C1, Monagas M, Khan N, Izquierdo-Pulido M, Urpi-Sarda M, Permanyer J, Lamuela-Raventós RMFlavanol and flavonol contents of cocoa powder products: influence of the manufacturing processJ Agric Food Chem.(2008 May 14)
14.^Hurst WJ1, Krake SH, Bergmeier SC, Payne MJ, Miller KB, Stuart DAImpact of fermentation, drying, roasting and Dutch processing on flavan-3-ol stereochemistry in cacao beans and cocoa ingredientsChem Cent J.(2011 Sep 14)
15.^Miller KB1, Hurst WJ, Payne MJ, Stuart DA, Apgar J, Sweigart DS, Ou BImpact of alkalization on the antioxidant and flavanol content of commercial cocoa powdersJ Agric Food Chem.(2008 Sep 24)
17.^Fisher ND, Hughes M, Gerhard-Herman M, Hollenberg NKFlavanol-rich cocoa induces nitric-oxide-dependent vasodilation in healthy humansJ Hypertens.(2003 Dec)
19.^Heiss C, Kleinbongard P, Dejam A, Perré S, Schroeter H, Sies H, Kelm MAcute consumption of flavanol-rich cocoa and the reversal of endothelial dysfunction in smokersJ Am Coll Cardiol.(2005 Oct 4)
20.^Heiss C, Dejam A, Kleinbongard P, Schewe T, Sies H, Kelm MVascular effects of cocoa rich in flavan-3-olsJAMA.(2003 Aug 27)
21.^Balzer J, Rassaf T, Heiss C, Kleinbongard P, Lauer T, Merx M, Heussen N, Gross HB, Keen CL, Schroeter H, Kelm MSustained benefits in vascular function through flavanol-containing cocoa in medicated diabetic patients a double-masked, randomized, controlled trialJ Am Coll Cardiol.(2008 Jun 3)
22.^Monahan KD, Feehan RP, Kunselman AR, Preston AG, Miller DL, Lott MEDose-dependent increases in flow-mediated dilation following acute cocoa ingestion in healthy older adultsJ Appl Physiol.(2011 Dec)
23.^Vlachopoulos C, Aznaouridis K, Alexopoulos N, Economou E, Andreadou I, Stefanadis CEffect of dark chocolate on arterial function in healthy individualsAm J Hypertens.(2005 Jun)
24.^Heiss C, Finis D, Kleinbongard P, Hoffmann A, Rassaf T, Kelm M, Sies HSustained increase in flow-mediated dilation after daily intake of high-flavanol cocoa drink over 1 weekJ Cardiovasc Pharmacol.(2007 Feb)
25.^Grassi D1, Necozione S, Lippi C, Croce G, Valeri L, Pasqualetti P, Desideri G, Blumberg JB, Ferri CCocoa reduces blood pressure and insulin resistance and improves endothelium-dependent vasodilation in hypertensivesHypertension.(2005 Aug)
28.^Leikert JF, Räthel TR, Wohlfart P, Cheynier V, Vollmar AM, Dirsch VMRed wine polyphenols enhance endothelial nitric oxide synthase expression and subsequent nitric oxide release from endothelial cellsCirculation.(2002 Sep 24)
29.^Ramirez-Sanchez I1, Aguilar H, Ceballos G, Villarreal F(-)-Epicatechin-induced calcium independent eNOS activation: roles of HSP90 and AKTMol Cell Biochem.(2012 Nov)
30.^Moreno-Ulloa A1, Romero-Perez D2, Villarreal F3, Ceballos G4, Ramirez-Sanchez I5Cell membrane mediated (-)-epicatechin effects on upstream endothelial cell signaling: evidence for a surface receptorBioorg Med Chem Lett.(2014 Jun 15)
31.^Taylor MS1, Francis M, Qian X, Solodushko VDynamic Ca(2+) signal modalities in the vascular endotheliumMicrocirculation.(2012 Jul)
33.^Ramirez-Sanchez I1, Maya L, Ceballos G, Villarreal F(-)-Epicatechin induces calcium and translocation independent eNOS activation in arterial endothelial cellsAm J Physiol Cell Physiol.(2011 Apr)
34.^Schramm DD1, Wang JF, Holt RR, Ensunsa JL, Gonsalves JL, Lazarus SA, Schmitz HH, German JB, Keen CLChocolate procyanidins decrease the leukotriene-prostacyclin ratio in humans and human aortic endothelial cellsAm J Clin Nutr.(2001 Jan)
35.^Awortwe C1, Asiedu-Gyekye IJ2, Nkansah E2, Adjei S3Unsweetened natural cocoa has anti-asthmatic potentialInt J Immunopathol Pharmacol.(2014 Apr-Jun)
36.^Jones RL1, Qian YM, Wise H, Wong HN, Lam WL, Chan HW, Yim AP, Ho JKRelaxant actions of nonprostanoid prostacyclin mimetics on human pulmonary arteryJ Cardiovasc Pharmacol.(1997 Apr)
37.^Misson J1, Clark W, Kendall MJTherapeutic advances: leukotriene antagonists for the treatment of asthmaJ Clin Pharm Ther.(1999 Feb)
38.^Hansel TT1, Tennant RC, Tan AJ, Higgins LA, Neighbour H, Erin EM, Barnes PJTheophylline: mechanism of action and use in asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseaseDrugs Today (Barc).(2004 Jan)
39.^Rios LY, Bennett RN, Lazarus SA, Rémésy C, Scalbert A, Williamson GCocoa procyanidins are stable during gastric transit in humansAm J Clin Nutr.(2002 Nov)
40.^Schramm DD1, Karim M, Schrader HR, Holt RR, Kirkpatrick NJ, Polagruto JA, Ensunsa JL, Schmitz HH, Keen CLFood effects on the absorption and pharmacokinetics of cocoa flavanolsLife Sci.(2003 Jul 4)
42.^Visioli F1, Galli C, Grande S, Colonnelli K, Patelli C, Galli G, Caruso DHydroxytyrosol excretion differs between rats and humans and depends on the vehicle of administrationJ Nutr.(2003 Aug)
43.^Roura E1, Andrés-Lacueva C, Estruch R, Mata-Bilbao ML, Izquierdo-Pulido M, Waterhouse AL, Lamuela-Raventós RMMilk does not affect the bioavailability of cocoa powder flavonoid in healthy humanAnn Nutr Metab.(2007)
45.^Mullen W1, Borges G, Donovan JL, Edwards CA, Serafini M, Lean ME, Crozier AMilk decreases urinary excretion but not plasma pharmacokinetics of cocoa flavan-3-ol metabolites in humansAm J Clin Nutr.(2009 Jun)
47.^Loffredo L1, Perri L1, Catasca E1, Pignatelli P1, Brancorsini M1, Nocella C1, De Falco E2, Bartimoccia S1, Frati G3, Carnevale R1, Violi F1Dark chocolate acutely improves walking autonomy in patients with peripheral artery diseaseJ Am Heart Assoc.(2014 Jul 2)
48.^Loffredo L1, Carnevale R, Perri L, Catasca E, Augelletti T, Cangemi R, Albanese F, Piccheri C, Nocella C, Pignatelli P, Violi FNOX2-mediated arterial dysfunction in smokers: acute effect of dark chocolateHeart.(2011 Nov)
49.^Carnevale R1, Loffredo L, Pignatelli P, Nocella C, Bartimoccia S, Di Santo S, Martino F, Catasca E, Perri L, Violi FDark chocolate inhibits platelet isoprostanes via NOX2 down-regulation in smokersJ Thromb Haemost.(2012 Jan)
50.^Esser D1, Mars M, Oosterink E, Stalmach A, Müller M, Afman LADark chocolate consumption improves leukocyte adhesion factors and vascular function in overweight menFASEB J.(2014 Mar)
51.^Mogollon JA, Boivin C, Lemieux S, Blanchet C, Claveau J, Dodin S1Chocolate flavanols and skin photoprotection: a parallel, double-blind, randomized clinical trialNutr J.(2014 Jun 27)
52.^Zhu QY1, Schramm DD, Gross HB, Holt RR, Kim SH, Yamaguchi T, Kwik-Uribe CL, Keen CLInfluence of cocoa flavanols and procyanidins on free radical-induced human erythrocyte hemolysisClin Dev Immunol.(2005 Mar)
53.^Holt RR1, Lazarus SA, Sullards MC, Zhu QY, Schramm DD, Hammerstone JF, Fraga CG, Schmitz HH, Keen CLProcyanidin dimer B2 (epicatechin-(4beta-8)-epicatechin) in human plasma after the consumption of a flavanol-rich cocoaAm J Clin Nutr.(2002 Oct)
54.^van Praag H1, Lucero MJ, Yeo GW, Stecker K, Heivand N, Zhao C, Yip E, Afanador M, Schroeter H, Hammerstone J, Gage FHPlant-derived flavanol (-)epicatechin enhances angiogenesis and retention of spatial memory in miceJ Neurosci.(2007 May 30)
55.^Abd El Mohsen MM1, Kuhnle G, Rechner AR, Schroeter H, Rose S, Jenner P, Rice-Evans CAUptake and metabolism of epicatechin and its access to the brain after oral ingestionFree Radic Biol Med.(2002 Dec 15)
56.^Fullerton DT, Getto CJ, Swift WJ, Carlson IHSugar, opioids and binge eatingBrain Res Bull.(1985 Jun)
57.^Gosnell BA1, Levine ASReward systems and food intake: role of opioidsInt J Obes (Lond).(2009 Jun)
59.^Hou QL1, Gao X, Lu Q, Zhang XH, Tu YY, Jin ML, Zhao GP, Yu L, Jing NH, Li BMSNAP-25 in hippocampal CA3 region is required for long-term memory formationBiochem Biophys Res Commun.(2006 Sep 8)
60.^Wong RW1, Setou M, Teng J, Takei Y, Hirokawa NOverexpression of motor protein KIF17 enhances spatial and working memory in transgenic miceProc Natl Acad Sci U S A.(2002 Oct 29)
61.^Massolt ET, van Haard PM, Rehfeld JF, Posthuma EF, van der Veer E, Schweitzer DHAppetite suppression through smelling of dark chocolate correlates with changes in ghrelin in young womenRegul Pept.(2010 Apr 9)
62.^Francis ST, Head K, Morris PG, Macdonald IAThe effect of flavanol-rich cocoa on the fMRI response to a cognitive task in healthy young peopleJ Cardiovasc Pharmacol.(2006)
63.^Mulert C1, Gallinat J, Dorn H, Herrmann WM, Winterer GThe relationship between reaction time, error rate and anterior cingulate cortex activityInt J Psychophysiol.(2003 Feb)
65.^Wirtz PH1, von Känel R2, Meister RE2, Arpagaus A3, Treichler S3, Kuebler U3, Huber S3, Ehlert U3Dark chocolate intake buffers stress reactivity in humansJ Am Coll Cardiol.(2014 Jun 3)
66.^Hoekstra R1, Fekkes D, van de Wetering BJ, Pepplinkhuizen L, Verhoeven WMEffect of light therapy on biopterin, neopterin and tryptophan in patients with seasonal affective disorderPsychiatry Res.(2003 Aug 30)
67.^Maes M1, Scharpé S, Meltzer HY, Okayli G, Bosmans E, D'Hondt P, Vanden Bossche BV, Cosyns PIncreased neopterin and interferon-gamma secretion and lower availability of L-tryptophan in major depression: further evidence for an immune responsePsychiatry Res.(1994 Nov)
68.^Adams S1, Braidy N, Bessede A, Brew BJ, Grant R, Teo C, Guillemin GJThe kynurenine pathway in brain tumor pathogenesisCancer Res.(2012 Nov 15)
69.^Widner B1, Laich A, Sperner-Unterweger B, Ledochowski M, Fuchs DNeopterin production, tryptophan degradation, and mental depression--what is the linkBrain Behav Immun.(2002 Oct)
70.^Jenny M1, Santer E, Klein A, Ledochowski M, Schennach H, Ueberall F, Fuchs DCacao extracts suppress tryptophan degradation of mitogen-stimulated peripheral blood mononuclear cellsJ Ethnopharmacol.(2009 Mar 18)
72.^Pase MP, Scholey AB, Pipingas A, Kras M, Nolidin K, Gibbs A, Wesnes K, Stough CCocoa polyphenols enhance positive mood states but not cognitive performance: a randomized, placebo-controlled trialJ Psychopharmacol.(2013 May)
73.^Desideri G, Kwik-Uribe C, Grassi D, Necozione S, Ghiadoni L, Mastroiacovo D, Raffaele A, Ferri L, Bocale R, Lechiara MC, Marini C, Ferri CBenefits in cognitive function, blood pressure, and insulin resistance through cocoa flavanol consumption in elderly subjects with mild cognitive impairment: the Cocoa, Cognition, and Aging (CoCoA) studyHypertension.(2012 Sep)
75.^Brickman AM1, Khan UA1, Provenzano FA1, Yeung LK1, Suzuki W2, Schroeter H3, Wall M4, Sloan RP4, Small SA5Enhancing dentate gyrus function with dietary flavanols improves cognition in older adultsNat Neurosci.(2014 Dec)
76.^Gu Y, Hurst WJ, Stuart DA, Lambert JDInhibition of key digestive enzymes by cocoa extracts and procyanidinsJ Agric Food Chem.(2011 May 25)
77.^Nogueira L1, Ramirez-Sanchez I, Perkins GA, Murphy A, Taub PR, Ceballos G, Villarreal FJ, Hogan MC, Malek MH(-)-Epicatechin enhances fatigue resistance and oxidative capacity in mouse muscleJ Physiol.(2011 Sep 15)
78.^Buitrago-Lopez A1, Sanderson J, Johnson L, Warnakula S, Wood A, Di Angelantonio E, Franco OHChocolate consumption and cardiometabolic disorders: systematic review and meta-analysisBMJ.(2011 Aug 26)
80.^Buijsse B, Feskens EJ, Kok FJ, Kromhout DCocoa intake, blood pressure, and cardiovascular mortality: the Zutphen Elderly StudyArch Intern Med.(2006 Feb 27)
81.^Corti R, Flammer AJ, Hollenberg NK, Lüscher TFCocoa and cardiovascular healthCirculation.(2009 Mar 17)
83.^West SG1, McIntyre MD1, Piotrowski MJ1, Poupin N2, Miller DL3, Preston AG3, Wagner P1, Groves LF1, Skulas-Ray AC4Effects of dark chocolate and cocoa consumption on endothelial function and arterial stiffness in overweight adultsBr J Nutr.(2014 Feb)
84.^Mogollon JA, Bujold E, Lemieux S, Bourdages M, Blanchet C, Bazinet L, Couillard C, Noël M, Dodin SBlood pressure and endothelial function in healthy, pregnant women after acute and daily consumption of flavanol-rich chocolate: a pilot, randomized controlled trialNutr J.(2013 Apr 8)
85.^Pincomb GA, Lovallo WR, Passey RB, Whitsett TL, Silverstein SM, Wilson MFEffects of caffeine on vascular resistance, cardiac output and myocardial contractility in young menAm J Cardiol.(1985 Jul 1)
86.^Zhu QY1, Holt RR, Lazarus SA, Orozco TJ, Keen CLInhibitory effects of cocoa flavanols and procyanidin oligomers on free radical-induced erythrocyte hemolysisExp Biol Med (Maywood).(2002 May)
87.^Zieman SJ1, Melenovsky V, Kass DAMechanisms, pathophysiology, and therapy of arterial stiffnessArterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol.(2005 May)
88.^Theuwissen E1, Smit E, Vermeer CThe role of vitamin K in soft-tissue calcificationAdv Nutr.(2012 Mar 1)
89.^Tota-Maharaj R1, Blaha MJ, McEvoy JW, Blumenthal RS, Muse ED, Budoff MJ, Shaw LJ, Berman DS, Rana JS, Rumberger J, Callister T, Rivera J, Agatston A, Nasir KCoronary artery calcium for the prediction of mortality in young adults <45 years old and elderly adults >75 years oldEur Heart J.(2012 Dec)
90.^Pereira T1, Maldonado J2, Laranjeiro M1, Coutinho R1, Cardoso E1, Andrade I1, Conde J1Central arterial hemodynamic effects of dark chocolate ingestion in young healthy people: a randomized and controlled trialCardiol Res Pract.(2014)
92.^Kondo K, Hirano R, Matsumoto A, Igarashi O, Itakura HInhibition of LDL oxidation by cocoaLancet.(1996 Nov 30)
93.^Salah N, Miller NJ, Paganga G, Tijburg L, Bolwell GP, Rice-Evans CPolyphenolic flavanols as scavengers of aqueous phase radicals and as chain-breaking antioxidantsArch Biochem Biophys.(1995 Oct 1)
94.^Wan Y1, Vinson JA, Etherton TD, Proch J, Lazarus SA, Kris-Etherton PMEffects of cocoa powder and dark chocolate on LDL oxidative susceptibility and prostaglandin concentrations in humansAm J Clin Nutr.(2001 Nov)
95.^Engler MB1, Engler MM, Chen CY, Malloy MJ, Browne A, Chiu EY, Kwak HK, Milbury P, Paul SM, Blumberg J, Mietus-Snyder MLFlavonoid-rich dark chocolate improves endothelial function and increases plasma epicatechin concentrations in healthy adultsJ Am Coll Nutr.(2004 Jun)
97.^Schnorr O, Brossette T, Momma TY, Kleinbongard P, Keen CL, Schroeter H, Sies HCocoa flavanols lower vascular arginase activity in human endothelial cells in vitro and in erythrocytes in vivoArch Biochem Biophys.(2008 Aug 15)
98.^Davison K1, Coates AM, Buckley JD, Howe PREffect of cocoa flavanols and exercise on cardiometabolic risk factors in overweight and obese subjectsInt J Obes (Lond).(2008 Aug)
99.^Ottaviani JI, Momma TY, Heiss C, Kwik-Uribe C, Schroeter H, Keen CLThe stereochemical configuration of flavanols influences the level and metabolism of flavanols in humans and their biological activity in vivoFree Radic Biol Med.(2011 Jan 15)
100.^Schroeter H, Heiss C, Balzer J, Kleinbongard P, Keen CL, Hollenberg NK, Sies H, Kwik-Uribe C, Schmitz HH, Kelm M(-)-Epicatechin mediates beneficial effects of flavanol-rich cocoa on vascular function in humansProc Natl Acad Sci U S A.(2006 Jan 24)
101.^Hermann F, Spieker LE, Ruschitzka F, Sudano I, Hermann M, Binggeli C, Lüscher TF, Riesen W, Noll G, Corti RDark chocolate improves endothelial and platelet functionHeart.(2006 Jan)
102.^Faridi Z, Njike VY, Dutta S, Ali A, Katz DLAcute dark chocolate and cocoa ingestion and endothelial function: a randomized controlled crossover trialAm J Clin Nutr.(2008 Jul)
103.^d'El-Rei J1, Cunha AR, Burlá A, Burlá M, Oigman W, Neves MF, Virdis A, Medeiros FCharacterisation of hypertensive patients with improved endothelial function after dark chocolate consumptionInt J Hypertens.(2013)
104.^Petrone AB, Gaziano JM, Djoussé LEffects of Dark Chocolate and Cocoa Products on Endothelial Function: A Meta-AnalysisCurr Nutr Rep.(2013 Dec)
105.