In time for the chocolate-giving and chocolate-noshing fest on Valentine’s Day, scientists are reporting discovery of methods this treat boosts the body’s production of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL) “” the “good” type of cholesterol that protects against heart disease. Just like those boxes of chocolates get hearts throbbing and mouths watering, polyphenols in chocolate ramp up the activity of certain proteins, including proteins that attach to the genetic material DNA in ways that boost HDL levels. Their report appears within the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, certainly one of 39 peer-reviewed scientific journals published by the American Chemical Society.
Midori Natsume, Ph.D., and colleagues note that studies have shown that cocoa, the main ingredient in chocolate, seems to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by boosting levels of HDL, or “good” cholesterol, and decreasing amounts of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad” cholesterol. Credit for those heart-healthy effects would go to a cadre of antioxidant compounds in cocoa called polyphenols, which are particularly rich in dark chocolate. So far, however, nobody knew exactly how the polyphenols in cocoa orchestrated those beneficial effects.
The scientists analyzed the effects of cocoa polyphenols on cholesterol using cultures of human liver and intestinal cells. They focused on producing apolipoprotein A1 (ApoA1), a protein that’s the major element of “good” cholesterol, and apolipoprotein B (ApoB), the primary component of “bad” cholesterol. It turns out that cocoa polyphenols increased ApoA1 levels and decreased ApoB levels in both the liver and intestine. Further, the scientists discovered that the polyphenols seem to work by improving the activity of so-called sterol regulatory element binding proteins (SREBPs). SREBPs attach to the genetic material DNA and activate genes that boost ApoA1 levels, increasing “good” cholesterol. The scientists also discovered that polyphenols seem to boost the activity of LDL receptors, proteins that help lower “bad” levels of cholesterol.
The American Chemical Society is a non-profit organization chartered through the U.S. Congress. Using more than 163,000 members, ACS is the world’s largest scientific society and a world leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.
Reference: Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. “Cacao Polyphenols Influence the Regulating Apolipoprotein in HepG2 and Caco2 Cells”