Cocoa, also called cacao, is not only the main component of chocolate, but a dietary supplement as well. Cocoa is rich in antioxidants, which have protective effects against free radicals, as explained by Long Beach Memorial Care Health System. Free radicals are waste products that develop when the body converts food to energy, and can cause cell damage and may contribute to disease. Compounds in cocoa may help fight stroke, heart disease, diabetes and cancer, according to a report in the 2007 issue of the "Harvard Gazette."
Gastrointestinal Side Effects
Some people may experience gastrointestinal side effects when taking cocoa supplements, according to Allina Health System, including upset stomach and constipation. If you breastfeed, the caffeine from cocoa may pass through your milk to your baby and lead to colic. A baby with colic is healthy but cries frequently or for long periods of time for no apparent reason. The University of Michigan Health System explains that causes of colic are unknown, but might be associated with intestinal gas, or a food sensitivity or allergy.
Cocoa contains theobromine, theophylline and caffeine, chemicals which all have stimulating effects. Some people may experience increases in energy, motivation and alertness when taking cocoa, as noted by Drugs.com. Although caffeine levels are low, some people are sensitive to this substance, and even small amounts can cause unpleasant side effects, cautions the University of Michigan Health Service. These effects may include restlessness, nervousness, irritability and problems concentrating. Physical signs of too much caffeine could include hand tremors, headaches and extra heartbeats.You should not taking cocoa bean supplements late in the day because the substance could cause insomnia or shallow sleep.
Although it is unlikely, some individuals may experience an allergic reaction to cocoa supplements. Signs as listed by the Allina Health System may include breathing difficulty, tightness in the throat or chest, itchiness, hives, a rash or swelling. An allergic reaction to cocoa supplements should be considered a medical emergency.
- Long Beach Memorial Care Health System: Benefits of Dark Chocolate
- U.S. National Institutes of Health: Antioxidants
- Harvard Gazette: Cocoa Shows Promise as Next Wonder Drug
- Drugs.com: Complete Cocoa Information
- Allina Health System: Cocoa
- University of Michigan Health System: Colic
- University of Michigan Health Service: Caffeine