Mars breaks new ground in heart health with Cocoavia™

09/19/05

New cocoa-based snacks first to deliver real heart-health benefits, premium chocolate taste

HACKETTSTOWN, NJ (Sept. 14, 2005) – With heart disease remaining the nation's number one killer, Americans increasingly are looking for options to improve their heart health. Now there's a new product hitting store shelves that will allow them to satisfy their passion for chocolate while being good to their heart.

CocoaViaTM is a revolutionary new line of heart-healthy snacks that combines real chocolate pleasure with ingredients formulated to promote a healthy heart. Ingredients in CocoaViaTM can significantly reduce LDL or "bad" cholesterol levels and promote healthy circulation to maintain heart health.

Created after more than a decade of research, CocoaViaTM is the only product that contains a patented blend of heart-healthy cocoa flavanols and cholesterol-lowering plant sterols from soy. The new line of snacks also is fortified with calcium and a mix of heart-healthy nutrients including folic acid, vitamins B-6, B-12, C and E. CocoaViaTM is made by Mars Nutrition for Health & Well-Being, a new division of Mars, Incorporated, makers of some of the world's best-loved, great-tasting chocolate brands. "CocoaViaTM is the vanguard of our efforts to 'reinvent' cocoa as an ingredient in healthful foods," said Dr. Harold Schmitz, chief science officer at Mars. "It's a first-of-its-kind product that was purposely designed to deliver heart-health benefits and real chocolate pleasure in products that are less than 150 calories per serving."

Mars first introduced CocoaViaTM granola-based snack bars nearly two years ago and sold the product exclusively on the Internet. Now a full line of CocoaViaTM products – including new chocolate bars (original, crispy and blueberry & almond) and chocolate-covered almonds – will be available at retail beginning in October. Pre-orders can be made online at www.cocoavia.com until the product reaches national distribution.

Science-Based Benefits

Mars is the global leader in cocoa science, collaborating with researchers at leading universities like Harvard and the University of California-Davis to explore the health benefits of cocoa flavanols – the powerhouse compounds found naturally in cocoa beans that are similar to those found in red wine and green tea. Scientists have been encouraged by the growing number of independent studies that indicate cocoa flavanols may help influence factors associated with clotting and promote a healthy blood flow. Other studies suggest that cocoa flavanols can improve the health of blood vessels and reduce the oxidation of LDL cholesterol that can lead to clogged arteries.

"It is clear that cocoa flavanols represent an intriguing new area of research with significant implications for nutrition and cardiovascular health," said Dr. Carl L. Keen, a professor of nutrition and internal medicine at the University of California-Davis, who has led multiple studies on the health benefits of cocoa flavanols.

CocoaViaTM is the first product to be launched under the new business unit, Mars Nutrition for Health & Well-Being. The new division is charged with developing new foods, snacks, beverages and lifestyle support to better serve the nutritional well-being needs of the consumer.

It's in the Flavanols

While flavanols are found naturally in cocoa beans, traditional cocoa processing often destroys many of these potentially heart-healthy compounds.

"Flavanols are essentially missing from much of the chocolate on store shelves today," said Schmitz. "Research clearly shows that a high cocoa or dark chocolate content cannot guarantee that a product can deliver the same potential heart-health benefits as the Mars flavanol-rich cocoa.

After 15 years of scientific research on flavanols, Mars developed a patented and proprietary process called Cocoapro® that helps ensure the heart-healthy flavanols remain active and are not destroyed. This technology guarantees that CocoaViaTM contains a consistent level of cocoa flavanols – which is what really counts when you're talking about cocoa and heart health, according to Schmitz.

"The very exciting potential heart-health benefits of cocoa flavanols is not about simply adding more cocoa or consuming any dark chocolate," he added. "In fact, the percentage of cocoa in a product is meaningless. Research from several universities clearly shows that it's about retaining the flavanols from the cocoa bean so you're confident of enjoying a flavanol-rich, cocoa-based product."

Each serving of CocoaViaTM contains at least 100 milligrams of naturally occurring cocoa flavanols. And since each serving is packed with the heart-healthy flavanols, you can eat a relatively small portion and still reap the benefits. That means less fat and fewer calories compared to a regular, larger-sized chocolate bar. A 0.78-ounce CocoaViaTM Original Chocolate Bar contains 100 calories, while a serving of the CocoaViaTM Chocolate-Covered Almonds contains 140 calories.

Heart-Healthy Regimen

Research conducted at the University of California-Davis and reported at the American Heart Association meeting this past November found that two servings of CocoaViaTM snack bars significantly lowered total and LDL cholesterol levels, without impacting HDL or "good" cholesterol. Each snack bar contains 1.5 grams of natural plant sterols from soy.

"Natural plant sterols are a clinically proven ingredient that can lower blood cholesterol," said Schmitz, who directs a multi-million dollar research budget at Mars. "Many cardiologists and family physicians have been recommending sterol-fortified products like margarines to their at-risk patients as a way to help lower elevated cholesterol levels. Now, there's a great-tasting option that naturally combines these cholesterol-lowering benefits with the exciting potential cardiovascular health benefits of cocoa flavanols." Including natural plant sterols from soy in the diet has been recommended by the American Heart Association and the National Cholesterol Education Program as one lifestyle change that can lower cholesterol levels significantly. The Food and Drug Administration approved a health claim based on the evidence that natural plant sterols may help reduce heart disease risk by lowering cholesterol.

"When eaten everyday, CocoaViaTM can help contribute to a heart-healthy lifestyle," said Kristine Clark, PhD, RD, nutrition professor at Pennsylvania State University. "Combined with daily exercise and a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, CocoaViaTM can play a valuable role in maintaining heart health."

Captures Your Passion for Chocolate Pleasure

"While the product provides real chocolate pleasure, you will only find it in the healthy foods section, not the candy aisle" said Jim Cass, vice president of sales and marketing at Mars Nutrition for Health & Well-Being. "That's because it delivers real heart-health benefits supported by sound science."

The brand name "CocoaViaTM" was derived from the vision that a new and exciting way to good health is through flavanol-rich cocoa. Cass said CocoaViaTM is the nexus of taste and health – the only snack that provides real chocolate pleasure and real heart-health benefits.

"Who knows more about capturing great chocolate taste than Mars, the makers of some of the country's best-loved chocolate brands such as M&M'S®, Dove® Chocolates and Snickers®, " said Cass. "We've been able to maximize the flavor and the health benefits in one unique cocoa-based product."

CocoaViaTM will be sold in the healthy foods section of grocery stores, drug stores and mass merchandisers such as Wal-Mart and Target. The new line of CocoaViaTM products, which includes the tagline "Be Good to Your Heart Every Day" on the label, can be pre-ordered before they are available in stores at www.cocoavia.com.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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