Skip to content

Benefits of Cocoa Flavanols: Curing Diabetes?

What are Cocoa Flavanols?

flavanols are these special compounds that you can find a lot of in cocoa products. But guess what? They're not just hanging out in cocoa – you can also find them in tea, berries, apples, grapes, nuts, beans, red onions, and even some spices. And get this: people really want more of these flavanols because they're good for your health. cause the demand for products with flavanols is predicted to grow about 6% every year on a global scale.

Is flavanol an antioxidant?

Yes. Flavanols are a subset of polyphenols, which are naturally occurring compounds present in a variety of plant-based foods. Polyphenols play various roles in plants, such as providing color, flavor, and protection against environmental stresses. Most polyphenols are antioxidants. They are also known for their potential health benefits in humans.

A group of vegetables on displayDescription automatically generated

An antioxidant is a substance that helps protect cells and tissues from damage due to pollution exposure and unhealthy foods or lifestyle. Flavanols, in particular, are recognized for their potential contributions in cardiovascular health and overall wellness as antioxidants. There is a growing market interest in harnessing the potential of flavanols in the pharmaceutical industry.

Health Benefits of Flavanols: Is Cocoa Flavanols Good for You?

Yes. Cocoa flavanols have many health benefits to the human body.

One study found that consuming flavanol-rich, low-energy cocoa food products may have a positive impact on cardiovascular disease risk factors. Another study showed that cocoa flavanols intake improved blood vessels flexibility and reducing blood pressure, which are important for cardiovascular health.

A person using a small white tubeDescription automatically generated

Moreover, consuming cocoa flavanols may also improve insulin sensitivity. Insulin sensitivity refers to the body's ability to respond to and utilize insulin effectively. Impaired insulin sensitivity is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

In overall, there are plenty benefits of cocoa flavanols. Despite all the promising health benefits of cocoa flavanols, it is still necessary to consult with your healthcare provider before consuming cocoa powder in large amounts. Especially, when the cocoa powder is laden in sugar, which could create a whole new problem by itself.

Are flavanols the same as flavonoids?

No and yes.

What is the difference between flavanols and flavonoids?

Flavanols are , but flavonoids are not necessarily flavanols. However, both of them are considered polyphenols. To understand this concept better, please look at the following simplified diagram for illustrations.

This diagram shows the many types of polyphenols that are present in . Flavanols are subgroup to flavonoids. There are over 8,000 polyphenol types available in the world.

A group of bags of foodDescription automatically generated

Speaking of chemical structure, the main structural difference between flavanols and other flavonoids is the absence of a double bond between C2 and C3 in flavanols, and no C4 carbonyl in ring C . However, we won't delve deeper into chemical science. This article will simply explains about the use of these compounds that are originated from plants. Perhaps, a better question would be: what is the difference between flavanols and flavonols? They sound even more similar to each other!

What is the best way to get cocoa flavanols?

The best way to get the benefits of cocoa flavanols is by consuming the least processed cocoa products.

A chocolate bar and cocoa beansDescription automatically generated

Some commercially available cocoa powders may have lower flavanol content compared to natural cocoa powders. The alkalized cocoa powders, which undergo a higher degree of processing, tend to have lower polyphenol content compared to natural, non-alkalized powders. According to study by Andres-Lacueva et al., the alkalinization process reduces approximately 67% of epicatechin and 36% of catechin from cocoa powder. Hence, opting for natural cocoa powder is key for getting the most cocoa flavanols into your body.

How do flavanols work?

Flavanols, including cocoa flavanols, work through various mechanisms to exert their beneficial effects on health.

How Flavanols Support Cardiovascular Function

One of the key mechanisms is their ability to increase the bioavailability of nitric oxide (NO). High bioavailability means a substance is effectively absorbed and utilized. Nitric oxide is a molecule that plays a crucial role in regulating blood vessel function and maintaining vascular health. Flavanols have been shown to enhance the production and release of NO from the inner lining of the blood vessels. By increasing NO bioavailability, flavanols promote the relaxation and dilation of blood vessels, which can help to reduce blood pressure. Several studies have demonstrated that the consumption of flavanol-rich cocoa products can lead to a significant reduction in blood pressure in individuals with hypertension.

A blood donation in a roomDescription automatically generated

How Cocoa Flavanols' Antioxidant Properties Works

As mentioned previously, flavanols possess antioxidant properties that can help neutralize free radicals. A more clinical term for free radicals is reactive oxygen species (ROS). Flavanols can modulate enzymes that are responsible for scavenging ROS. ROS are harmful, unstable molecules produced in human body due to metabolism, immune responses, or exposure to pollution, radiation, or certain chemicals. ROS can cause damage to cells and DNA when not properly controlled. Hence, flavanols contribute to the prevention of chronic diseases, including cancer and cardiovascular diseases, as well as premature aging.

A group of fruit on a treeDescription automatically generated

How Cocoa Flavanol May Support Diabetes Management

Cocoa flavanols can promote the function of beta cells, which is crucial for insulin production. Insulin helps controlling blood sugar level. Dysfunction of beta cells can lead to conditions like diabetes. Aside from protecting beta cells through its antioxidant properties, flavanols also modulate mitochondrial respiration in beta cells. By improving mitochondrial function, flavanols may enhance the insulin secretion capacity of beta cells.

A diabetes equipment and a measuring tapeDescription automatically generated with medium confidence

How Flavanols Kill Cancer Cells

Flavanols also have the ability to induce apoptosis, which is a programmed cell death process that helps eliminate damaged or abnormal cells. They can promote the activation of signalling pathways that lead to cell death in cancer cells, thereby inhibiting their progress. Cocoa catechins and procyanidins have been shown to induce the ‘killing' of ovarian cancer cells.

Women holding hands and looking at each otherDescription automatically generated

How Cocoa Flavanols Support Skin Health

Cocoa flavanols have been found to support skin health through their antioxidant properties, ability to improve blood flow, and potential effects on obesity and type 2 diabetes. First, their antioxidant properties can help protect the skin from damage caused by environmental factors such as UV radiation. Second, cocoa flavanols can improve blood flow, hence improving the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the skin. Third, by preventing obesity and type 2 diabetes which can cause acne, psoriasis, and skin infections, cocoa flavanols may also indirectly support skin health.

What are the application of flavonoids in food industry?

Flavonoids, being natural compounds with various health benefits, find several applications in the food industry:

  1. Natural Colorants: Certain flavonoids provide vibrant colors to foods and beverages, allowing manufacturers to replace synthetic colorants with natural alternatives.
  2. Flavor Enhancement: Some flavonoids contribute to flavors in foods, enhancing taste profiles without the need for artificial additives.
  3. Functional Ingredients: Flavonoids are known for their antioxidant and potential health-promoting properties. They can be added to foods to provide functional benefits, appealing to health-conscious consumers.
A close up of a blueberryDescription automatically generated
  1. Preservation: Flavonoids exhibit antioxidant properties that can prevent fat or oil oxidation, protecting vitamins and enzymes in food products. Some flavonoids possess antimicrobial properties that can extend the shelf life of food products naturally.
  2. Stabilizer: Stabilizers help maintain the physical and chemical properties of food products, often preventing separation or degradation of ingredients. They can enhance texture, viscosity, and overall product quality.
  3. Beverages: Flavonoids are commonly found in teas, fruit juices, and other beverages due to their appealing flavors and potential health benefits.

It's important to note that the application of flavonoids in the food industry depends on factors like stability, taste, and the desired health benefits, and their use may vary based on product formulations and consumer preferences.

What is flavonoid extraction?

Flavonoid extraction simply means the method and process of isolating flavonoid from its plant sources to be utilized for the aforementioned purposes.

What are the methods of isolation used for flavonoids?

In order to be utilized, flavonoids must be isolated or extracted from its plant sources. The methods of isolation used for flavonoids include:

  1. Solid-liquid extraction: Flavonoids can be extracted from plant matrixes using solvents such as water, ethanol, or acetone.
  2. Liquid-liquid extraction: Flavonoids can be separated from other components using liquid-liquid extraction techniques, where the target compounds are selectively partitioned between two immiscible solvents.
A person pouring liquid into test tubesDescription automatically generated
  1. Column chromatography: Column chromatography, such as silica gel or Sephadex LH-20, can be used for the separation and purification of flavonoids.
  2. Preparative high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC): Preparative HPLC can be employed to isolate and purify flavonoids from complex mixtures.
  3. Adsorption on macroporous adsorption resins (MARs): MARs can selectively adsorb flavonoids from plant extracts based on their characteristics, such as benzene rings and hydrogen groups attached to their aglycone (Zain et al., 2020).

These methods allow for the isolation and purification of flavonoids from natural sources, enabling further characterization and evaluation of their biological activities.

The choice of isolation method depends on factors such as the specific flavonoid of interest, the complexity of the sample, and the desired purity and yield. Different methods may be employed in combination to achieve optimal separation and purification.

What is the best solvent for extracting flavonoids?

Acetone is considered the most effective solvent for extracting flavonoids. Other recommended solvents are ethanol, methanol, water.

A white plastic container with a labelDescription automatically generated

Flavanol Extraction from Cocoa Powder

Just like from any other plant source, flavanols can be extracted from cocoa powder. The followings are the steps of extracting epicatechin, one of cocoa powder's abundant flavanols:

  1. Pretreatment of cocoa beans: Different pretreatment methods can be applied to cocoa beans, such as freezing or inhibiting polyphenol oxidase activity, to preserve the flavanols and prevent degradation.
  2. Dehydration: After pretreatment, the cocoa beans can be dehydrated at a controlled temperature, such as 45 °C, until a cocoa powder is obtained.
A close-up of hands holding beansDescription automatically generated
  1. Solvent extraction: The cocoa powder can be subjected to solvent extraction to isolate the epicatechin. Based on the provided references, a hydroalcoholic extraction using a hydroalcoholic solvent (a mixture of water and alcohol) is recommended for extracting flavanols, including epicatechin.
  2. Optimization of extraction conditions: Response surface methodology (RSM) can be employed to optimize the extraction conditions, such as solvent concentration, extraction time, and temperature, to maximize the extraction efficiency of epicatechin.
  3. Scaling up separations: Once the extraction conditions are optimized, the extraction process can be scaled up to obtain a larger quantity of epicatechin.

Industrial Applications of Cocoa Flavanols

Cosmetics and Skincare

Cocoa flavanols, have been studied for their potential in skin protection and maintenance of skin health. They possess antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and DNA repair activities, which can be beneficial for preventing skin disorders caused by excessive exposure to UV radiation.

A person applying cream on her legDescription automatically generated

Topical application of cocoa polyphenols has been suggested to improve skin elasticity. Cocoa butter, which contains cocoa flavanols, is commonly used in moisturizers due to its emollient properties. Animal, in vitro, and human skin models have demonstrated the potential benefits of cocoa polyphenols in improving skin appearance and health.


In pharmaceutical industries, cocoa flavanols have a lot of potentials. It has indeed caught the interest of researchers and the medical community. Cocoa flavanols excel especially as nutraceuticals for anti-obesity, anti-diabetic, neuroprotective, cardiovascular, and muscle growth sustenance.

A person lifting weights in a gymDescription automatically generated

Brands such as Flava Naturals and Cocoavia are selling high flavanols cocoa powder and cocoa flavanols supplements. One of the specific compounds found in cocoa flavanols, epicatechin, is also used to create popular supplements marketed for its support of muscle growth.

A collage of different supplementsDescription automatically generated

As of now, cocoa flavanols are recommended as preventative measures for diseases. The future for cocoa flavanols could involve the development of specialized supplements or medicines derived from these compounds, designed to target specific health conditions. While this is a possibility, it's important to approach such developments with caution and to rely on evidence-based science. Turning cocoa flavanols into drugs involves rigorous testing, clinical trials, and regulatory approval to ensure their safety, effectiveness, and proper dosages. Always consult with healthcare professionals before considering any new supplements or treatments.

Conclusion: Benefits of Cocoa Flavanols

So, to wrap things up, cocoa flavanols are like a treasure trove for boosting your health. They're not just good for your heart – they also lend a hand in keeping your mind sharp and your skin happy. As we dig deeper into how they can help us, the plentiful flavanols in cocoa show us a sneak peek of a brighter, healthier tomorrow. And hey, if you're on the lookout for some top-notch cocoa powder for your business, just drop us a line at [email protected]. We're here to help!

Open chat
Need help?
Hi, how can we help you?