Purpose of review: In modern society, cocoa is being eaten as a confectionery, contrary to its medicinal use in the past. However, since the last decade, there has been a revival of talks about cocoa's health beneficial effects. Development has been made at the molecular level recently. This review discusses the recent progresses on potential health benefits of cocoa and/or its derivatives, with a focus on the areas that have been paid little attention so far, such as the role of cocoa in immune regulation, inflammation, neuroprotection, oxidative stress, obesity, and diabetes control.
Recent findings: Thanks to the advancement in analytical technologies, the cocoa's metabolic pathways have now been properly mapped providing essential information on its roles. Cocoa helps in weight loss by improving mitochondrial biogenesis. It increases muscle glucose uptake by inserting glucose transporter 4 in skeletal muscles membrane. Because of its antioxidant properties, cocoa offers neuron protection and enhances cognition and positive mood. It lowers immunoglobulin E release in allergic responses. It can affect the immune response and bacterial growth at intestinal levels. It reduces inflammation by inhibiting nuclear factor-κB.
Summary: Keeping in view the pleiotropic health benefits of cocoa, it may have the potential to be used for the prevention/treatment of allergies, cancers, oxidative injuries, inflammatory conditions, anxiety, hyperglycemia, and insulin resistance.