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New finding explains how chocolates boost good cholesterol in the body

There is good news bout Valentine's Day chocolates after all.

Cocoa has been found to be rich in polyphenols, an antioxidant compound that boost levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or “good” cholesterol. More abundant good cholesterol in the body reduces the risk of heart disease. Until today, however, the workings behind the metabolism of cocoa into good cholesterol have not been fully explained.

A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry reported that while polyphenols increase good cholesterol, they also decrease levels of bad cholesterol in the body. Scientists observed cultures of human liver and intestinal cells in the presence of polyphenols for 24 hours. They found that cocoa polyphenols increased the production of apolipoprotein A1, a major component of good cholesterol, and decreased the levels of apolipoprotein B, the primary protein of bad cholesterol.

Apolipoprotein A1 helps to clear the body of excess cholesterol, while apolipoprotein B is responsible for bringing cholesterol to the tissues. Excess apolipoprotein B leads to formation of plaque in the walls of blood vessels (atherosclerosis), a condition known as cardiovascular disease.

The researchers also found that polyphenols increased proteins called sterol regulatory element binding proteins (SREBPs). These proteins attach to our DNA and stimulate the genes that boost apolipoprotein A1 production. While polyphenols boost SREBPs, they also activate LDL receptors, proteins that help lower LDL (low-density lipoprotein), the “bad” cholesterol.

The authors suggest that good cholesterol levels are enhanced with daily cocoa intake.

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