Hyperlipidemia is an elevation of one or more of the following: cholesterol, cholesterol esters, phospholipids, or triglycerides. Although cholesterol has received much negative press, in normal quantities, it is essential for life. Cholesterol and triglycerides, as the major plasma lipids, are essential substrates for cell membrane formation, steroidal hormone synthesis, and production of bile acids. Effective management of hypercholesterolemia requires understanding the biochemistry of cholesterol and the importance of cholesterol in normal physiology. In recent years, studies have consistently shown that abnormalities of plasma lipoproteins can result in a predisposition to coronary artery disease, pancreatitis, xanthomas, or neurologic disease. Accumulating evidence has linked elevated total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) and reduced high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) to the development of coronary heart disease.
Cocoa beans grow on the Theobroma cacao tree, which is found in Southeast Asia, Hawaii, Brazil and other South American countries. Cocoa beans are harvested, dried and roasted and then crushed into chocolate liquor. This liquor is then pressed to remove most of the cocoa butter and the remainder is further processed to become unsweetened cocoa powder. Cocoa contains fat, carbohydrates, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and other compounds. Cocoa phenols have been found to prevent LDL (bad) cholesterol from plague buildup in the arteries, thereby, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition investigated the effect cocoa had on total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and HDL cholesterol by analyzing 8 trials involving 215 participants. The researchers found that cocoa consumption significantly lowered LDL cholesterol and significantly lowered total cholesterol but only in subjects who consumed low amounts of cocoa and had a risk of cardiovascular disease. Healthy subjects experienced no change and there was no change in HDL cholesterol. In conclusion, the authors said this analysis suggests moderate consumption of cocoa may be beneficial by preventing high cholesterol in people who are at risk for this condition. They also suggested that high-quality, randomized studies with longer follow-ups are needed to support trials that have shown cocoa to be effective in lowering cholesterol levels.1
1 Jia L, Liu X, Bai Y, et al. Short-term effect of cocoa product consumption on lipid profile: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Am J Clin Nutr. May2010.