Chocolate cuts bowel cancer risk

Here's good news for chocoholics - munching on the sweet treat regularly may stave off your risk of developing bowel cancer, a new study has claimed. Researchers at the Science and Technology Institute of Food and Nutrition in Spain found that eating a diet high in cocoa could reduce risk of the cancer which kills more than 655,000 people worldwide every year.

Past studies have found the seed is rich in particularly powerful natural antioxidants that destroy harmful molecules known as free radicals. The new findings are the latest to highlight the health benefits of the cocoa bean, most of which is harvested in West Africa.

"Foods like cocoa, which is rich in polyphenols, seems to play an important role in protecting against disease," Maria Arribas, who led the latest study, was quoted as saying by the Daily Mail. For the study, Arribas and her team investigated if the food could stop rats from developing bowel cancer when exposed to tumour-causing chemicals. One group of rats were fed a daily diet consisting of 12% of cocoa for eight weeks, while another group were given a diet containing no cocoa. After a period of time, both groups were exposed to a carcinogen called azoxymethane, which is used to induce colon cancer.

Within four weeks of exposure rats began to develop intestinal cancers. However, the researchers discovered the rats on the cocoa diets had a reduced number of pre-cancerous lesions compared to the control group. It is believed that the study, published in Molecular Nutrition and Food Research, is the first to suggest that cocoa could help prevent bowel cancer.

However, further research is now needed to explore how the raw material could benefit humans, the researchers said. It has already been suggested that eating chocolate with a high cocoa content could help to control diabetes, blood pressure and heart diseas

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