That title has equal numbers of vowels and consonants. Does that seem a bit demented to you? Well, I’m not suffering from dementia yet and I have a plan to avoid it even when I get really, really old (which I also plan to do). The key to my new scheme is epicatechin. Epicatechin is a nutrient contained in – you guessed it – the cacao bean and thereby (some) chocolate.
You see, there are these people called the Kuna, who live in Panama. Other people couldn’t help but notice that, besides their groovy outfits and pleasant demeanor, the Kuna people tend to live for a long time. (Check out the photo below of an 86 year-old Kuna woman!)
In addition they have extremely low rates of dementia, stroke, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. One scientist, a dude named Dr. Norman Hollenberg, of Harvard Medical School, posits that the source of this astounding good health is likely the fact that they drink as many as 40 cups per week of cocoa. Wow, imagine how many marshmallows the local Walmart must sell!
More about epicatechin:
- a type of flavinoid
- its antioxidant properties may help prevent cancer
- thought to increase nitric oxide in the blood, improving circulation
- some teas, wine, fruits, and vegetables also contain epicatechin
Epicatechin has a bitter taste, so it’s often removed when processing cacao beans into chocolate or cocoa powder. The Mars company (maker of M&Ms) say they’ve developed a method for preserving the favanoids in the manufacture of chocolate. They apparently mark their flavinoid-preserved products with a “Cocoapro” logo. Interesting… Here’s what their website says about it:
Cocoa flavanols can be easily destroyed during normal cocoa and chocolate processing. Building off of nearly two decades of research, Mars, Incorporated scientists have perfected a process to reduce the cocoa bean’s exposure to high temperatures, helping to protect the cocoa extract. This proprietary, patented Cocoapro® process guarantees that the cocoa extract in CocoaVia™ has consistent levels of flavanols.
So it sounds like it’s heat that destroys the flavinol. I seem to recall a mention of drying the cacao beans at lower temperature in the video in this post.