Confectionery producer Mars Inc., keen to promote the possible health benefits of flavonoids, has introduced theCocoapro logo on confectionery packaging to signify that the product has undergone its proprietary method for processing cocoa beans. This method preserves the flavonoid antioxidant found in cocoa plants. Flavonoids of the polyphenol type occur naturally in the cocoa plant but can be decreased by the processing involved in creating chocolate products. Population studies have linked a high dietaryintake of flavonoids (primarily from fruits and vegetables) with a reduced risk of heart disease and possibly some cancers. A 1998 Harvard Universitystudy of over 7,000 male alumni found that participants who ate sweets lived, on average, almost a year longer than those who did not. Though the study didnot distinguish between chocolate and sugar confectionery, the researchers theorised that the disease-fighting capabilities of cocoa flavonoids were the most likely explanation for their findings. Two studies funded by Mars demonstrated that polyphenols appear to inhibit LDL ("bad") cholesterol oxidation - acontributor to atherosclerosis, or accumulation of plaque on the lining of the blood vessels that can lead to heart attack or stroke. The genuine health benefits of chocolate are still being research and for the moment the consumer must bear in mind that some of the saturated fat in chocolate is stearic acid. This does not raise cholesterol levels, but a recent large study found that it was associated with a higher incidence of coronary disease, perhaps because it increases the blood's tendency to clot. Source: Consumers Union of U.S., Inc.