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What Quantity of Cocoa Should be Part of A Balanced Diet

By Edward Amporful

Recently I received an enquiry from a Ghanaian student studying abroad. I gathered there was a discussion in class and knowing that Ghana was noted for cocoa production wanted to know the amount of cocoa one should consume per day as part of a balanced diet. I checked this one out and found out that this enquiry had been a subject handled by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in 2012.

An entity had sought the opinion of the EFSA on the matter in 2012. The ensuing captures what the EFSA went through in coming out with a position on the matter.

The Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA) of the EFSA was asked to deliver an opinion on the scientific substantiation of the health claim related to cocoa flavanols and maintenance of normal endothelium-dependent vasodilation.

The food constituent that was the subject of the health claim was cocoa flavanols. Flavanols are flavonoids and belong to a larger group of polyphenols. The flavanols in cocoa (Theobroma cacao L.) consist of monomeric catechins (mainly epicatechin) and oligomeric flavanols (procyanidins) ranging from dimers to decamers. The Panel considered that cocoa flavanols are sufficiently characterised.

The variety and country of origin, as well as the fermentation and roasting processes applied to cocoa beans, affected the flavanol content in cocoa. This fact underlied, for example, why Ghana’s cocoa is reputed to be of premium quality- because of the processes applied to cocoa beans. The EFSA noted that flavanols are measurable in foods by established methods. In cocoa beans fermented for several days, the amount of monomeric flavanols accounted for 34-37 % of total flavanol content (Wollgast and Anklam, 2000). This work identified three groups ofpolyphenols in cocoa beans: catechins,which constitute about 37% of the polyphenol contentin the beans, anthocyanidins (about 4%), and proanthocyanidins(about 58%).

he claimed effect was that cocoa flavanolshelp maintain endothelium-dependent vasodilation which contributed to healthy blood flow. The target population proposed by the applicant was the general healthy adult population.

The capacity of blood vessels to respond to an increase in blood flow by dilating is designated as flow-mediated dilation (FMD). Endothelium-dependent vasodilation contributes to the maintenance of an adequate blood flow to body cells and tissues. The Panel considered that a sustained increase of endothelium-dependent vasodilation in fasting conditions in response to an intervention (e.g. regular consumption of a food/constituent) was a beneficial physiological effect. The Panel considered that maintenance of normal endothelium-dependent vasodilation was a beneficial physiological effect

Theentity seeking the opinion of EFSA provided three human intervention studies as supportive evidence for the scientific substantiation of the claim. The evidence investigated the effects of cocoa flavanols on endothelium dependent flow-mediated dilation (ED-FMD) in fasting conditions during repeated consumption of the food constituent (for 30 days to 6 weeks) in subjects with coronary artery disease (CAD) under pharmacological treatment for this condition. Two out of the three studies showed an effect of cocoa flavanols consumed for 30 days on fasting ED-FMD in subjects with CAD who were under pharmacological treatment. The effect occurred after seven days of consumption of cocoa flavanols.

A number of human intervention studies had been conducted in different population subgroups (e.g. smokers, older adults, obese subjects, subjects with type 2 diabetes and CAD). These addressed the acute effects of cocoa flavanols when consumed on a single occasion on ED-FMD. The information was provided by the entity as supportive evidence for the scientific substantiation of the claim. One of the studies also assessed the acute effects of cocoa flavanols on ED-FMD during repeated consumption (for seven days) of the food/constituent. Consumption of cocoa flavanols on a single occasion induced an acute, dose-dependent increase in ED-FMD which was maximal two hours after consumption of the food constituent. This paralleled blood concentrations of the flavanol metabolites. This returned to baseline six hours after ingestion, and is sustained with repeated consumption of cocoa flavanols.

A study found the highest plasma peak concentrations of flavanols were obtained 2 to 3 hours after ingestionin a dose-dependent manner and still measurable after8 hours(Serafiniet al.Plasma antioxidants from chocolate. Nature. 2003; 424:1013.21).

In weighing the evidence, the Panel took into account that cocoa flavanols consumed for 12 weeks had been shown to increase fasting ED-FMD significantly in the target population in one human intervention study. In another human intervention study the effect was dose-dependent and occurred after one week of consumption under the conditions of use proposed by the entity. The effect was supported by two additional intervention studies, and that it was also observed in two out of three studies in patients under pharmacological treatment for CAD.

The Panel also took into account that consumption of cocoa flavanols on a single occasion induced an acute and dose-dependent increase in ED-FMD which is sustained with regular consumption of the food/constituent. The acute effect was mediated by the enhancement of NO production in the endothelium each time cocoa flavanolswere consumed.

The Panel concluded that a cause and effect relationship had been established between the consumption of cocoa flavanols and maintenance of normal endothelium-dependent vasodilation. The Panel considered that the following wording reflected the scientific evidence-that Cocoa flavanols helped to maintain endothelium-dependent vasodilation, which contributed to normal blood flow.

In order to obtain the claimed effect, 200 mg of cocoa flavanols should be consumed daily. This amount could be provided by 2.5 g of high-flavanol cocoa powder or 10 g of high-flavanol dark chocolate. These amounts of cocoa powder or dark chocolate could be consumed in the context of a balanced diet. The target population is the general population.

Source : Ghanain Times

Health Benefits Of Cocoa

Edward, tell me, are the health benefits of cocoa real or just hype? This was a question from a hypertensive patient I have known for years. It is amazing the body of information available now on cocoa. There is one I believe that captures the health benefits of cocoa fairly well. It is titled “Cocoa and Cardiovascular Health” by Corti et al (2009).’ The paper is even carried by the highly esteemed American Heart Association (AHA).I found the background of this particular paper very interesting. For centuries, cocoa-rich chocolate has been known not only for its good taste ‘out also for its proposed health effects, The Incas considered it the drink of the gods, this association actually explains the scientific name of the cocoa tree, Theobroma cacao. Theo in Greek means god, broma means to drink. The Incas formed the largest empire in pre-Columbia America and controlled swathes of South America with their administrative, political arid military centre based in modem-day Peru. The paper notes that cocoa consumption dates back to 1600’ BC with an Aztec Emperor calling cocoa a divine drink which built up resistance and reduced fatigue.
The Aztecs had found out that a cup of cocoa drink permitted a man to walk for a whole day without food (Cortes H, 1519). The paper noted that in the 19th century, chocolate became a luxury item with its consumption regarded as a sin rather than a remedy. The recent discovery of biologically active phenolic compounds in cocoa has changed this perception and stimulated research on its effects on ageing, blood pressure regulation and atherosclerosis.
The first evidence of the cardiovascular benefits of cocoa was observed in Kuna Indians, a native population living on islands off the coast of Panama.

The Kuna belong to one of the few cultures that are protected against the age-dependent increase in blood pressure and the development of arterial hypertension. The Kunas consumed great amounts of cocoa daily.
Deaths from cardiovascular events were found to be far lower than in other Pan-American citizens. It noted that the factors involved were clearly environmental rather than genetic because the protection against cardiovascular diseases disappeared on their migration to urban Panama City, where the home-prepared cocoa is replaced by other food with lower flavanol content. The paper also referred to the Zutphen Elderly Study, involving 470 elderly men which showed cocoa intake improved cardiovascular health.
Cocoa contains flavanol, a polyphenol. Flavanols occur as monomers; epicatechin and catechin. These monomers can assemble as dimmers, oligomers, and polymers of catechins (Procyanidins).
Procyanidins (also known as condensed tannins), through the formation of complexes with salivary proteins, are the cause of the bitterness of cacao. It is important to note that after oral intake of cocoa, both the flavanol content and the total antioxidant capacity in plasma increase with the highest plasma peak concentrations of flavanols obtained 2-3 hours after ingestion, It is noteworthy that milk chocolate has the lowest flavanol , content compared with cocoa powder and dark chocolate.
A range of potential mechanisms through which flavanols and cocoa exert their benefits on cardiovascular health are activation of Nitric Oxide (NO) and antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antiplatelet effects, which in turn improve endothelial function, lipid levels, blood pressure, in- sulin resistance and clinical outcome.
The endothelium is a continuos, smooth, nonthrombogenic surface of all blood vessels that show a highly selective permeability in its healthy state. The endothelium synthesizes and releases a broad range of vasoactive substances.Functional impairment of the vascular endothelium in response to injury occurs long before the development of structural atherosclerotic changes. Nitric oxide (NO) synthesized by endothelial NO synthase (eNOS) induces relaxation of vascular smooth muscle cells, prevents leukocyte adhesion ‘and migration, smooth muscle cell proliferation and platelet adhesion and aggregation. Endothelial dysfunction reduces eNOS and/or NO bioavailabity and finally atherosclerotic disease.
Endothelial dysfunction is associated with cardiovascular disease, and predictive of coronary events. In patients with coronary artery disease, consuming foods rich in flavanols such as cocoa improves endothelial function through increased expression of NO.In patients with cardiovascular risk factors, a cocoa drink high in flavanol content (176 to 185mg) rapidly increases the circulating pool ofbioactive NO by more than a third and leading to vasodiation. Consuming a flavonoid-enriched cocoa beverage leads to regional changes in cerebral (brain) blood flow and an overall increased blood flow to gray matter (brain) for up to 3 hours (Loke et al 2008).
In elderly humans cerebral blood flow in the middle cerebral artery increases indicating protection against dementia and stroke (Francis et al 2006).
Cocoa flavanols and procyanidins exert strong anti-oxidant effects. Polyphenols from cocoa delayed the oxidation 01 low-density lipoprotein (LDL) bad cholesterol. Oxidative stress and reduced antioxidant defence play a crucial role in atherosclerosis.Consumption of 40g dark chocolate induced coronary vasodilation, improved coronary vascular function and decreased platelet adhesion (Flammer et al 2007).Cocoa reduces platelet aggregation within hours of its consumption. Cocoa decreases both platelet aggregation and adhesion (Hermann et al 2006).A small amount of dark chocolate daily (6g) reduced mean systolic blood pressure by 2.9±1.6 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure by 1.9±l.O mm Hg with” no changes in body weight, plasma lipid levels, glucose, and 8-isoprostane (Taubert et al 2007). Cocoa has been found to reduce insulin resistance (Grassi et aI2005). Cocoa butter, a fat derived from cocoa plants and found predominantly in dark chocolate contains an average of 33% mono-unsaturated oleic acid and 33% staeric acid.
In hypertensive patients, daily consumption of 100g flavonoid rich chocolate over 2 weeks led to a significant 12% reduction of total and LDL cholesterol levels (Grassi et aI2005).In healthy subjects, daily consumption of75g polyphenol-rich dark chocolate over 3 weeks in- creased HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) by up to 14% and inhibited lipid peroxidation (Mursu et aI2004).It should, however, be noted that the cardiovascular benefits of cocoa could be negated by high sugar and high fat (saturated) content in some of the products available.
Like everything, moderation i the key in realising its full benefits. The health benefits from the fore-going are skewed in favour of the products with high flavanol content, e.g. dark chocolate. If you are hypertensive never attempt to replace your antihypertensives with flavanol-enriched cocoa product. It should be seen as complimentary rather than substitution,
A thought came to me during Mother’s day celebration at church and all mothers in the church were given bars of chocolate. We have already done it for Valentine Day which we refer to as National Chocolate Day. Perhaps we should extend it to other such days on our national calendar.
Apart from the proven health benefits from regular use of flavanol-enriched cocoa, the potential economic gains are huge contributing to the socioeconomic development of the country.

Source: Ghanaian Times

Govt won’t reduce producer price of cocoa – Akufo-Addo assures farmers

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has assured cocoa farmers that the government will not reduce the current producer price of cocoa, in spite of the plummeting world market price.
The guaranteed price the government paid to farmers in the 2018/19 main crop season was GH¢7,600 per tonne or GH¢475 per bag of 64 kilograms (kg)
President Akufo-Addo said he took the decision not to reduce the producer price because farmers had been producing the wealth of the nation.
Besides, he said, through the toil of farmers, a lot of activities in the country were being subsidized and “it is only fair that when things turn against them, the state should come in to help”.
President Akufo-Addo gave the assurance when he received a delegation of the Ghana Cocoa, Coffee and Sheanut Farmers Association at the Jubilee House in Accra last Friday. The President’s assurance came against the backdrop of a recent call by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for the government to reduce the producer price of cocoa to reflect changes in international cocoa prices.
According to the IMF, the downward adjustment would help COCOBOD deal with its current funding gap of GH¢1 billion. At its seventh and eighth review under the recently concluded External Credit Facility (ECF) programme, the IMF said the gap had been due to the government’s inability to reduce the producer price paid to cocoa farmers at a time global prices of the crop had been falling.
President Akufo-Addo said that, in sum, “social justice” informed the decision to maintain the current price of the produce.
He reiterated the fact that Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire, which accounted for 60 percent of total world cocoa production, were working closely to get better conditions and prices for cocoa farmers. The President explained that the collaboration would involve coordinating production and marketing, among other areas, in order to get better prices.
He expressed concern over the fact that it was those who bought the cocoa who made huge profits, while the farmers who worked hard on the farms got peanut, a development which, he said, must cease.Interventions
President Akufo-Addo expressed delight that the farmers had appreciated the various government interventions, including fertiliser subsidy, the replacement of old cocoa trees with new ones and hand pollination.
He appealed to the farmers to be vigilant and support the government to deal with “nation wreckers” who stole fertiliser and sold it to farmers in other countries.
“It is not correct that a few people, for their selfish interest, will take the fertiliser subsidised by the sweat and hard work of Ghanaian farmers and smuggle it to Burkina Faso and Cote d’Ivoire. It is not right and you have to help me stamp out the smuggling of fertiliser out of the country,” he told the farmers.
The President saluted the farmers for helping the government to deal with illegal mining and assured them that the fight would not be put on hold.
Rather, he said, the fight against the canker would be intensified and debunked the assertion by sections of the media that he would lose the 2020 elections because of the ban on illegal mining.
He said he owed it as a responsibility to the current and future generations to defeat illegal mining to halt the devastating pollution of waters bodies and the general destruction of the environment, adding that if they were allowed to continue, there would be no Ghana in the next decade.Law
President Akufo-Addo disclosed that at the end of May this year, when Parliament resumed sitting, the government would table before it a bill for the establishment of a Tree Crop Development Authority, which had been in the works for ages, to focus on sheanut, coffee, rubber, mango and coconut.
He said the law would establish an institution just like COCOBOD and provide strong institutional support for the crops, so that both farmers and the country would derive the maximum benefit.
He said coffee and shea butter had enormous potential for the country because available information indicated that they attracted billions of dollars in areas such as the USA.
“We should get inside there and make some of that money for ourselves,” he stressed.
Realising that goal, President Akufo-Addo said, would require cooperation between the government and farmers to grow the industry to the level that cocoa had reached.
Reacting to an appeal by the farmers for solar lamps and mosquito nets, the President directed the Minister of Food and Agriculture and the Chief Executive of the COCOBOD to ensure that they assisted farmers with their request.Governance
The President urged members of the association, which has a membership of about one million, to place emphasis on their internal governance and abide by its laid-down rules, regulations and constitution in selecting their leadership and managing their affairs.
He said that was the best way to grow any organisation, reduce tension and afford group members the space to work in unity and solidarity.
Answering a question by a farmer from the Volta Region, the President said the Eastern Corridor roads would be taken care of very soon under the Sino Hydro projects.
The Spokesperson for the association, Alhaji Imoro Issifu Alhassan, said the farmers were increasingly worried that cocoa prices on the world market had been going down, to the extent that some stakeholders had suggested that local cocoa prices must be reduced to save the national coffers.
On that score, he commended the President for maintaining the producer price.
He also lauded the President for the various social intervention programmes the government had instituted, especially the free senior high school policy, which had afforded poor farmers the opportunity to send their children to school at no cost.
He expressed the association’s gratitude to the government for involving the association in the distribution of fertiliser through its input stores. 

Source: Graphic Online

COCOBOD Would Not Reduce Cocoa Prices:-Reducing cocoa price will collapse industry

The Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) says the call by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that it should reduce the producer price of cocoa “makes economic sense.”

However, the COCOBOD said any attempt to heed that call would mark the beginning of the collapse of the country’s cocoa industry.

In an interview that discussed a range of issues on the producer price of cocoa and cocoa sustainability in Ghana, the Chief Executive Officer of COCOBOD, Mr. Joseph Boahen Aidoo, said any attempt to “reduce the price by even GH¢5 will spell doom for the industry.”

Such a reduction will motivate farmers to relinquish their cocoa farmlands for illegal mining, rubber and cashew plantations to the detriment of the cocoa industry, Mr. Aidoo said.

He was responding to an advice by the IMF to the board and the government to adjust the producer price of cocoa downwards to reflect global trends.

The fund said the reduction was necessary to ensure that COCOBOD did not expand its financing gap estimated at GH¢1 billion.

“The proposal of the IMF makes sense economically but the decision does not have to be made based on the economics of it alone; we have to weigh the social and the environmental effect also.

“So, our decision to maintain the price is based on the determination that the environmental and the social impact outweigh the economic effect as being suggested by the IMF,” he added.

On the IMF’s advice that the government could use “explicit budget transfers” to cushion farmers’ incomes from the impact of a producer price reduction, Mr Aidoo said “it does not make any difference.”

“That is like robbing Peter to pay Paul,” he said, explaining that the cost of that mechanism would still be borne by the state.

“Meanwhile, when you reduce the price, you sort of send a bad signal that will motivate the farmers to give out their farms,” he added.


In view of the consequences of the downward adjustment of the producer price of cocoa, Mr Aidoo said the board was justified in keeping the price paid to cocoa farmers at GH¢7,600 per tonne for two years in a row at a time prices of the crop had fallen by an average of 40 per cent on the world market.

He, however, explained that in the unlikely event that prices dropped below a danger level, the board, the government and the farmers “will have to sit and take a decision.

Until then, Mr Aidoo said, the board and the government would continue to keep the price at GH¢7,600 per tonne while intensifying the productivity-enhancing programmes (PEPS) to help protect farmers’ incomes.

Cost of ‘galamsey’

COCOBOD’s CEO said unlike other cocoa producing countries, Ghana’s cocoa sector was competing with illegal mining, cashew and rubber plantations for the same land.

To worsen the situation, he said, productivity in the sector had been low, making it easier for farmers, most of whom were past 50 years, to relinquish their cocoa farms for other ventures that could fetch them comparatively higher incomes.

He revealed that a survey by the board found that substantial amounts of cocoa lands in the Eastern Region and the previously called Brong Ahafo Region had been lost to cashew and rubber plantations, leading to a decline in contribution to national output from those areas.

“When you go to Weichi in the Brong Ahafo Region, the large tracts of cashew farms you see there now used to be cocoa farms, but because of the low productivity and loss of interest in cocoa farming, farmers started converting their farms to cashew farms,” he said.

“So the justification (for maintaining the price) is that we had to actually put measures in place to sort of bring a break to the way the industry was losing land to illegal mining. Because if the price of cocoa had been reduced in 2017 by even GH¢5, when cocoa prices on the world market fell by more than 40 per cent, most cocoa farmers would have sold their land to illegal miners,” he said.

Financial gap

Mr Aidoo said that was not the first time a global body was concerned about Ghana’s unwillingness to reduce the producer price to correspond with world market prices.

He recalled that the World Bank, the World Cocoa Foundation, the International Cocoa Organisation and even peer cocoa growers had asked the COCOBOD why the country was keeping its producer price intact when global prices were falling.

Apart from Ghana, almost all the 50 cocoa growing countries worldwide have reduced their cocoa producer price to reflect the fall in the price of the crop internationally.

COCOBOD’s CEO said Ghana’s decision came at a cost.

In the 2017/18 cocoa season, when global prices of the crop fell by more than 40 per cent, he said the board recorded a financial gap of GH¢2.03 billion.

It, however, narrowed to the current GH¢1 billion as a result of modest improvements in the price in the 2018/19 season, he said.