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Theobroma cacao (Cacao) historical and current uses due to polyphenol, flavonoid, and theobromine characteristic used for anti-inflammation and antioxidants
Chocolate is a well-known product of Theobroma cacao and is one of the most beloved food items. Aside from the luxurious and indulging portrayals from commercials and social media, chocolate has an ingredient which makes it what it is today. Derived from the Cacao tree there are many beneficial properties which are adherent to human health.
Inflammation which is a root cause of many illnesses can be aided by an active product from this plant (Oyeleke et al, 2018). Additionally, compounds such as: polyphenols, procyanidins and flavanols are found in this plant which can confer anti-oxidant properties (Taparia&Khanna, 2016). The cacao plant has different parts which are utilized and a critical component (theobromine) is an abundant source from specific parts of the tree (Zheng et al., 2004). Lastly, the history, origination, and historical use of T.
cacao are important to understand the beginning of its fame.
The origination of the cacao tree was in South America and was later cultivated in central America by man (Motamayor et al., 2002). Cultivation was derived from the Maya’s, one of the largest civilizations (Motamayor et al., 2002). Theobroma cacao has been used for centuries and dates back 5300 years ago (pre-Columbian Mesoamerican) due to archeological evidence found (Zarrillo et al.
, 2018). It was ritualistically used and good for trade, yet not used for its medicinal properties (Zarrillo et al., 2018). Pre-Columbian era utilized cacao as a currency for trade, for drinks used in rituals, and to demonstrate status within the community (Zarrillo et al., 2018). Historically, cacao was utilized. There are findings of an ancient vessel which was used to store a beverage made from the cacao tree. There are techniques used (GC-MS) which can find what was in the sample from an old vessel used for a beverage by Mesoamericans (Henderson et al., 2007). This sample which was absorbed by the vessel was tested to conclude that there were remnants of a cocoa drink (Henderson et al., 2007). Additionally, it is hypothesized that this drink may have been fermented due to other parts of the world having chemical evidence of fermented beverages (Henderson et al., 2007). Largely, the historical use was used to flaunt status and not for its medicinal properties.
Knowledge on the benefits to Theobroma cacao is known, however, specific parts of the plant utilized which are known for these compounds are further discussed. The development of T.cacao means there is accumulation of compounds (polyphenols and flavonoids) during the primary and secondary metabolic pathways (Wang et al., 2016). The maturation of the cacao seed related to primary metabolism revealed that in stage 3 of development there was accumulation of galactinol which is proposed to protect the seed from distress against weather (Wang et al., 2016). During the development of the seed, presence of flavonoids increased whilst a derivative of polyphenols (NPPAA) decreased (Wang et al., 2016). Contrastingly, another in-vitro study identified different types of polyphenolic compounds in the flowers (Alemmano et al., 2003). Additionally, anthocyanins (derived form flavonoids) are present in the petals, epidermis, and staminodes (Alemmano et al., 2003). A study evaluating active compounds, made extracts from the different parts of the plant. This in-vitro study found that the root extract had the most antioxidant and phenolic properties (Baharum et al., 2014). Due to the high anti-oxidative properties, the root may have the best scavenging properties (Baharum et al., 2014). Theobroma cacao has different levels of active compounds within different parts of the plant and the quantities and presence varies depending on development or morphological feature.
T.cacao and its originating properties are: polyphenols, procyanidins and flavanols and how they are functional and beneficial to humans in anti-inflammatory cases
There are key compounds found in Theobroma cacao which can have an impact on inflammation due to their polyphenolic and flavonoid properties. Significant compounds in T.cacao can inhibit platelet activation and thus reduce inflammation due to the chemical structure and its ability to interact with inflammatory response proteins (Murphy et al., 2003). A blind and parallel clinical trial was conducted with 32 healthy individuals to consume 234mg of cocoa flavanols and procyanidins (equivalent to a serving of dark chocolate), 6 tablets a day for 28 days (Murphy et al., 2003). Platelet aggregates are reduced when flavonoids are present in the body due to the inhibition of platelet clusters (Pignatelli et al., 2000). This is executed by flavonoids ability to inhibit collagen (stimulates agonist for platelet clustering) (Pignatelli et al., 2000). Additionally, eicosanoid synthesis (a cause of inflammatory response) can be reduced due to polyphenolics inhibiting enzymes for eicosanoid or modulation the synthesis activity (Schraam et al., 2001). Inflammation can be reduced with the consumption and extra addition of flavonoids in your diet.
There are key components in Theobroma cacao which make it effective antioxidants. The chemical structure of polyphenols in cocoa gives it significant antioxidant properties. Additionally, how these chemical structures react in the body is imperative to understand its benefits. In a study, methods were conducted to prove the claims of antioxidant properties produced by the polyphenolic compounds. By conducting more than one method, C?diz-Gurrea et al. were able to purify T.cacao extract, evaluate the polyphenolic composition, and determine the antioxidant properties (C?diz-Gurrea et al., 2014). Their findings were that procyanidins (a type of polyphenol) was successful in reducing peroxyl radicals and had the most antioxidative properties (C?diz-Gurrea et al., 2014). This was due to procyanidins chemical structure (dimers and trimers) being more effective than monomeric flavonoids against radical species (Lecumberri et al., 2007). The availability and how polyphenols react with the body is investigated in the next study where cocoa husks were produced to a fine powder and then further into an extract for polyphenols (Lecumberri et al., 2007). The antioxidant property was determined using various assays and the polyphenolic content demonstrated reduction of iron and scavenging capabilities (Lecumberri et al., 2007). Thus, this means that within your gastrointestinal tract the antioxidative properties enable good health benefits.
Theobromine is a purine alkaloid which is present in T.cacao and is known for various health benefits. The biosynthesis of theobromine is dominant in the cotyledon specifically in the younger stage of development (Zheng et al., 2004). In this study, Zheng et al., proposed the biosynthesis of theobromine begins with adenine and when metabolised produces AMP which is later converted to XMP (xanothosine-5′-monophosphate) via IMP (inosine-5′-monophosphate). Next, xanthosine is formed from XMP which leads to the major component theobromine through the conversion of xanthosine by co-substrates (Zheng et al., 2004). Health benefits from theobromine include cough suppression. A randomized double-blind study demonstrated coughs were suppressed in humans (in-vivo) and guinea pigs (in-vitro) due to anti-inflammatory properties (Usmani et al., 2005). Secondly, in a double-blind placebo-controlled study, Smit et al., found that there are psychostimulant properties due to theobromine and/or caffeine (both found in cacao) due to various performance tests assigned (Smit et al., 2004). To conclude, the biosynthesis and concurring health benefits of theobromine are a key factor to Theobroma cacao.
To summarize, Theobroma cacao was first utilized in south America for status and entertainment purposes. However, as research progressed there are key constituents which can make this plant valuable. Different parts of the plant contain different levels of the active compounds such as the seed, cotyledon, and flower. Flavonoids, polyphenols, and theobromine are all useful active compounds. The occurring health benefits include anti-inflammation, antioxidant, and psychostimulant properties. Thus, Theobroma cacao has many alluring factors and benefits which can increase its popularity and desire.
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