CocoaVia, a proprietary cocoa extract sold by Mars as a dietary supplement, is touted "to promote healthy blood flow, which supports a healthy heart and brain." Though we don't recommend it (we're not convinced of those claims), there’s probably no harm (except to your pocketbook) in trying it. It’s available as a powder (sweetened, unsweetened, or flavored) that you can stir into beverages or add to oatmeal or other foods, as well as in capsules.
CocoaVia is likely subjected to good quality control (it passed muster with ConsumerLab.com for having the amount of flavanols listed on the label and for purity) and has some evidence behind it. A patented process helps preserve the cocoa flavanols during handling and processing, so the products contain much higher amounts than typical chocolate or cocoa powder. But don’t expect, as the company claims, that this supplement will help you “maintain who you are for years to come” (whatever that means) or have any significant effects on your health. Mars also uses the same patented process to preserve the flavanols in some of its dark chocolate candy.
We advise against other flavanol supplements regardless of their source (cocoa beans, tea, or berries, for instance), which have not been well researched or tested at all, and don’t necessarily even contain what the labels say. In fact, as the ConsumerLab.com analysis found, one cocoa supplement had virtually no flavanols despite the high amounts listed on the label.
This article first appeared in the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter.