Theobroma cacao Seed Extract: Sources And Benefits

Theobroma cacao Seed Extract: Sources And Benefits

What is Theobroma cacao?

Theobroma cacao can be translated as chocolate, food of the gods. This tree is native to the tropical regions of the Americas. The seeds (usually referred to as beans) are the source of the cocoa used to make chocolate. Over the past decade chocolate has had a blossoming reputation as being heart healthy.* This is because of the cocoa content in chocolate and is the tip of the cocoa health iceberg, so to speak. 

How does Theobroma cacao support cellular function?

One of the scientific findings that peaked our interest in sourcing a cocoa extract was a small study that looked at changes in mitochondrial structure and function.* Mitochondria are best known for producing cellular energy in the form of ATP. This occurs on the inner folds called cristae. In general, having a higher density of cristae means that the capacity for producing ATP is increased. The same would be true if something increases the size and number of mitochondria. In the study, eating dark chocolate did both.* The key driver of this process appears to be specific polyphenols called cocoa flavanols which are typically found in higher amounts in dark chocolate than milk chocolate. 

When we did a deeper dive into both cocoa, and its flavanols, the fit for Qualia Life became stronger and stronger. We realized that having cocoa bean extract (and other food extracts rich in polyphenols such as French red grapes) should positively influence multiple areas of cell function and mitochondrial performance.* 

Having both cocoa extract and French red grape extract should positively influence multiple areas of cell function and mitochondrial performance.

Once we decided to add cocoa extract the next step was coming up with a suitable source. Cocoa is in theory a rich source of polyphenols. But in practice, flavanol content of cocoa products varies widely from one cocoa product to the next. This occurs largely because of how cocoa is processed. The result is that some cocoa products can have very low flavanol content; others can have much more. To further complicate sourcing, a number of cocoa flavanol patents have been granted.

Cocoa is also a rich source of a bitter compound called theobromine. This compound is a weaker cousin to caffeine, influencing similar brain processes but not quite as strongly. About 10% of the caffeine we consume is converted into theobromine in the body, and both caffeine and theobromine are nootropic compounds, with potential to positively influence aspects of cognitive performance.* 

Similar to caffeine, theobromine is a “just right” amount compound. More can be better till the “just right” range is hit (which can vary individually) after which, like caffeine, theobromine can worsen the same things it was previously helping (e.g., attention, focus, mood). 

The amount of theobromine in cocoa powders can vary about 5-fold, with darker chocolates generally having more than milk chocolates. So, in addition to wanting a cocoa bean extract that is high in cocoa flavanols, we also wanted to source a product that was not too high in theobromine. 

Given these complexities, most of the cocoa products consumed don’t guarantee the amount of cocoa flavanols. So, we selectively purchase our cocoa from a company that has invested many years perfecting processes that allow them to retain high amounts of cocoa flavanols and has a license to the patents. This product is ACTICOA®; it’s the cocoa bean extract included in Qualia Life.

* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The products and information on this website are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. The information on this site is for educational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. Please speak with an appropriate healthcare professional when evaluating any wellness related therapy. Please read the full medical disclaimer before taking any of the products offered on this site.

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