Epicatechin, a compound found in unrefined cocoa, could have health benefits that rival penicillin and anesthesia in terms of importance to public health.
Norman Hollenberg, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, has spent years studying the effects of routine cocoa drinking on the Kuna people of Panama. The Kuna, who drink up to 40 cups of cocoa a week, have a less than 10 percent risk of stroke, heart failure, cancer and diabetes.
Hollenberg believes that epicatechin should be considered a vitamin, and other nutrition experts believe that epicatechin is so important that it could even warrant a rethinking of how vitamins are defined.Epicatechin is removed from commercial cocoas because it tends to have a bitter taste. It is also found in teas, wine, chocolate and some fruits and vegetables.