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7 June 2006

Cocoa Study

Researchers in South Australia are investigating a theory that cocoa - the main ingredient in chocolate - could actually help people lose weight and stay healthy.


PATRICK EMMETT: It was about 10 years ago in the jungles of Central America that scientists first suspected the humble cocoa bean might be more than just a raw material for one of the world's favourite sweets. They were looking into why some of the local Indians had an unusually low rate of cardiovascular disease. In fact, their blood pressure would hardly go up as they got older. The common link was they drank large amounts of a concoction made from cocoa beans.

ASSOC PROF JON BUCKLEY, UNISA: There's a growing body of evidence that it does have cardiovascular benefits, and people are looking at its effects on peripheral blood flow and also brain blood flow and the potential benefits for cognitive function, and so there are a lot of health benefits and people are starting to identify potentially new health benefits.

PATRICK EMMETT: Thousands of kilometres away from the jungle John Davison and his team at the University of South Australia are looking into just how good cocoa can be for us. The special ingredient in cocoa is flavonols, antioxidants which make blood vessels dilate so blood flows easier. What the UniSA researchers are studying is whether that may even help people lose weight.

ASSOC PROF JON BUCKLEY: We noted in people who are overweight or obese that they have impaired dilatory function. So say if you're obese and you go for a walk then the blood vessels that supply the blood to your active muscles won't dilate as freely as they will in someone who is not obese. So you have to carry this extra weight and at the same time you're less able to provide adequate blood flow to the muscles, so you are at a double disadvantage.

PATRICK EMMETT: To do their study the scientists will use ultrasound to measure how much blood flows through an artery.

They'll then use this machine to measure fat levels. Over a 12-week period the subjects will then drink a special cocoa drink every day and do a moderate exercise program.

The scientists will then see whether drinking more cocoa has helped some of the group lose more weight.

UNISA SCIENTIST: So you can see we have got your body divided into different sections here and we've actually got a report here of the percentage of body fat and lean tissue in each of these sections. So what we're going to do is come back in 12 weeks time, take another scan and we'll compare the percentage of fat in all these different regions and we're hoping that over the period on the supplement that you'll get a reduction in body fat, particularly in around this abdominal region.

PATRICK EMMETT: Now most of us know cocoa is the key ingredient in the king of confectionary: chocolate. But before you start rushing to the supermarket, there's a warning.

ASSOC PROF JON BUCKLEY: Chocolate ain't chocolate.

PATRICK EMMETT: It seems while some of the very best chocolate has high levels of cocoa, a lot of the cheaper brands don't. And the flavonols can also be lost in the processing. Dark chocolate generally has higher cocoa levels than milk chocolate but milk chocolate is far more popular and, because of high sugar and fat levels, it's still a long way off being prescribed by doctors. Jon Buckley sees his research as being a step towards changing that and he hopes that in the near future, by adding cocoa to drinks and chocolate, we could actually be helping the fight against obesity.

ASSOC PROF JON BUCKLEY: If you could eat as much chocolate as you wanted and know it was doing you good then that would be fantastic.


story notes

cocoa bean
Cocoa is a dark brown powder that comes from cocoa beans. Itís used to make chocolate.


looking into
To look into something is to find out all you can and examine the facts carefullly.

Example: We'll have to look into changing our insurance company.

an
An instead of a is used before words that start with a vowel sound. Foilow the link to listen to the difference.
more information: a & an

rate
Rate refers to the number of times something happens.

cardiovascular disease
Cardiovascular disease is heart disease.

go up
increase

Example: The price of fuel will go up.
For more meanings of the phrasal verb go up, follow the link below to our language library.
more information: go up

drank
Drink is the past tense of the irregular verb drink. Follow the link below to find out more and to listen to some examples.
more information: drink

concoction
mixture

body of evidence
A body of evidence is a collection of evidence. It's all the things known about a certain subject.

Example: The body of evidence about smoking makes it clear that it is definitely not good for your health.
Click here for more idioms and common expressions.

effects
Notice that the noun is effect whereas the verb meaning 'to influence' is affect. Follow the link for more.

are studying
This is the present continuous tense, used for things that are happening now and continuing into the future. Follow the link below to our language library to find out more.
more information: present continuous tense

you're
If you can say you are instead of you're, the word is the contraction of you are and should be spelled y-o-u-'-r-e. Follow the link below to find out more.
more information: your & you're

use
Notice that we pronounce use differently when it's used as a noun. Follow the link below to listen to the difference.
more information: use

ultrasound
An ultrasound is a machine thatís used to look inside the body. It uses sound waves to put an image on a screen.


flows
moves

subjects
The subjects are the people being studied.

moderate
medium

come back
return

Example: I'll come back in an hour.
For more meanings of the phrasal verb come back, follow the link below to our language library.
more information: come back

abdominal
stomach

lost
Here lost is the past participle of the irregular verb lose. Follow the link below to find out more and to listen to some examples.
more information: lose

long way off
Something that is a long way off is a large distance away in time or space.

Example: My hunderdth birthday is a long way off.