Heart disease is the number one killer in America and various studies suggest that different supplement and food interventions may help protect against it. A recent study adds to that body of work, suggesting that combining fish oil, cocoa extract, and plant sterols might be effective in warding off heart disease by fighting atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).
While a number of previous studies has found that each of these supplements individually helps fight atherosclerosis, the goal of this study was to see the effect of a combination of all three.
Researchers used cell-based models for this study. They found that a supplement containing fish oil, cocoa extract, and plant sterols weakened cells that were involved in artery build-up and blockage. They also found improvements in the cells that are responsible for transporting cholesterol as well as decreased activity from the cells that tend to promote inflammation.
Researchers from Cardiff University and Cultech Limited conducted the study. It was published on March 7, 2016, in PLOS One.
Fish oil has also been linked to numerous other health benefits, including combating diabetes, lowering cholesterol, improving vision, reducing the risk of dementia and relieving depression.
Cocoa has recently been linked with various health benefits, including improving skin health and brain health. It is important to note that not all chocolate is created equal: chocolates with a higher percentage of cocoa tend to be much healthier. This is because darker chocolate has higher levels of flavonoids.
Plant sterols have been previously shown to reduce cholesterol, sometimes by as much as 17%. They can be found in small quantities in fruits, vegetables, vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, cereals and legumes. There are also a number of foods that are fortified with plant sterols, such as spreads, mayonnaise, orange juice and granola bars.