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Thursday, March 10, 2022

Maybe this is why you don’t see Russian athletes eating chocolate

Cocoa Supplements Don’t Improve Exercise-Related Digestive Issues in Endurance Athletes

By News Staff / Source

Cocoa is used in the sports world as a supplement, although there is no consensus on its use. In a new study, researchers from the Universidad Europea de Madrid and elsewhere investigated the effect of cocoa intake on intestinal ischemia, gastrointestinal symptoms, gut microbiota, and serum lipopolysaccharide levels in endurance athletes during their training period on an unrestricted diet. 

Tabone et al. found that cocoa had no significant effects on serum and fecal metabolites and that its consumption had little impact on the metabolome after a bout of physical exercise. Image credit:

“Performing vigorous or intense exercise can cause digestive upset for some people,” said Universidad Europea de Madrid researcher Dr. Mar Larrosa and colleagues.

“The symptoms can include nausea, heartburn, abdominal cramps and diarrhea.”

“In the worst cases, symptoms are so bad that athletes stop what they’re doing and drop out of competitions.”

“Previous studies have suggested that long-term cocoa consumption could alleviate these issues because of the tasty substance’s high level of flavonoids.”

“These compounds can enhance antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity and have been shown to have prebiotic effects on beneficial gut microbes in animal studies.”

“However, chronic consumption of cocoa powder by humans to reduce exercise-related digestive problems hasn’t been investigated in a standardized way.”

Dr. Larrosa and co-authors wanted to develop a highly controlled but also realistic human trial to assess whether cocoa could help.

They conducted a randomized, placebo-controlled study of 54 physically fit male athletes who followed a strict training routine over 10 weeks.

During that time, the participants supplemented their regular diets with either flavonoid-rich cocoa or a placebo starch powder mixed into semi-skim milk, which they drank daily at breakfast.

At the beginning and the end of the training period, they underwent a high-endurance running test.

Their gastrointestinal symptoms did not change in either supplementation group, indicating the cocoa did not improve exercise-induced digestive complaints.

Finally, the researchers found only slight effects on the composition of the gut microbiome and plasma and fecal metabolites.

“Although the athletes’ diets, which included a high amount of fruits and vegetables, could have masked a small effect of the cocoa, cocoa is not an effective exercise supplement for suppressing gastrointestinal problems or changing the overall gut microbiome of endurance athletes,” they said.

The results were published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry._____

Mariangela Tabone et al. 2022. Chronic Consumption of Cocoa Rich in Procyanidins Has a Marginal Impact on Gut Microbiota and on Serum and Fecal Metabolomes in Male Endurance Athletes. J. Agric. Food Chem 70 (6): 1878-1889; doi: 10.1021/acs.jafc.1c07547