Chocolate is made from cocoa beans, grown on Theobroma cacao trees, and has the same nutrients as other plant-based foods such as natural flavonols. Flavonols are potent antioxidants, which are thought to help prevent or delay damage to the cells and tissues caused by free radicals.
Mars claims that CocoaVia has the highest levels of flavonols of any chocolate snack on the market on a per-calorie basis. Each serving of CocoaVia, either one bar or four chews, contains at least 100mg of cocoa flavonols.
In vitro research in the Journal of Nutrition (Vol 130) suggests that cocoa flavonols promote healthy blood vessels, which are believed to promote normal blood flow critical to heart health. Researchers found that consumption of flavanol-rich chocolates resulted in absorption by the body of some of the procyanidins as well as an increase in blood antioxidant capacity within two hours after eating chocolate.
The researchers also observed a decrease in the damage by free radicals on blood lipids, a situation that is associated with a decreased risk of plaque formation and may be associated with the reduced risk of heart disease, the leading cause of death in the US.
Phytosterols, naturally produced in plants and found to help support healthy cholesterol levels, received a heart health claim from the FDA this year. They are believed to reduce cholesterol in two ways, by interfering with the body's absorption of dietary cholesterol during digestion and by promoting the excretion of cholesterol, effectively lowering the amount of cholesterol in the blood stream and helping to maintain cardiovascular health.
Prior to the news about CocoaVia, Mars' most aggressive move into functional foods was its plan to introduce the Snickers Marathon bar. Marathon relies on a patented new protein blend called Quadratein, which combines soy, whey, peanut protein and milk protein.