Author(s): Addai FK
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Abstract BACKGROUND: The Maya of Central America are credited with the first consumption of cocoa and maintaining its ancient Olmec name kakawa translated in English as "God Food", in recognition of its multiple health benefits. The legend of cocoa is receiving renewed attention in recent years, on account of epidemiological and scientific studies that support its cardiovascular health benefits. Increasing numbers of scientific reports corroborating cocoa's antiquated reputation as health food persuaded this author to promote regular consumption of cocoa in Ghana since 2004. Cocoa is readily available in Ghana; the country is the second largest producer accounting for 14\% of the world's output. Numerous anecdotal reports of reduced episodic malaria in people who daily drink natural unsweetened cocoa beverage prompted a search for scientific mechanisms that possibly account for cocoa's antimalarial effects. This paper presents the outcome as a hypothesis. METHODS: Internet search for literature on effects of cocoa's ingredients on malaria parasites and illness using a variety of search tools. RESULTS: Evidential literature suggests five mechanisms that possibly underpin cocoa's anecdotal antimalarial effects. (i) Increased availability of antioxidants in plasma, (ii) membrane effects in general and erythrocyte membrane in particular, (iii) increased plasma levels of nitric oxide, (iv) antimalarial activity of cocoa flavanoids and their derivatives, and (v) boosted immune system mediated by components of cocoa including cocoa butter, polyphenols, magnesium, and zinc. CONCLUSION: A hypothesis is formulated that cocoa offers a diet-mediated antimalarial prophylaxis; and an additional novel tool in the fight against the legendary scourge.
This article was published in Med Hypotheses
and referenced in Malaria Control & Elimination