Previous research had suggested that flavanols exerted their benefits through an antioxidant mechanism.
In collaborative research, scientists from Mars, the University of California, and the University of Reading, UK examined how cocoa flavanols work in the body to exert circulatory and cardiovascular benefits.
Disagreement in scientific community
Many studies have linked flavanol and procyanidins rich diets to improved cardiovascular health.
The study sought to discover the systematic levels and metabolic profiles at which these compounds occur in humans.
There has been some disagreement in the scientific community over the metabolic profile of the compounds, largely due to what the present study called a lack of authentic standards.
In this study, the authors claimed to use a wide range of authentic standards.
The researcher said they had demonstrated the extensive metabolism of epicatechin, the main flavanols in cocoa, following consumption of a flavanol-containing cocoa drink.
Absorption and metabolism
Past studies have linked epicatechin to circulatory and cardiovascular benefits.
This study found that absorption and metabolism play a central role in determining the exact effect food constituents and nutrients such as epicatechin have in the body.
The researchers said the finding will help scientists further their understanding of exactly how cocoa flavanols are linked to health benefits.
Hagen Schroeter, study author and director of fundamental health and nutrition research at Mars said: "By significantly advancing our understanding of the absorption and metabolism of cocoa flavanols, this research helps to address existing disagreement in this area and sets a new standard in flavanol analytics that will improve the scientific tools available.
“Furthermore, this work again calls into question the validity of in vitro research that does not take into account the extensive metabolism of compounds like -epicatechin."