Narrator: This is Science Today. Cocoa and other foods that are rich in compounds called flavanols have been gaining the attention of nutritionists and public health officials because there's evidence that they may improve the health of people with coronary heart disease. Carl Keen, a nutrition expert at the University of California, Davis, says these compounds can repair the inner walls of blood vessels.
Keen: What we think is happening with the flavanols and your vascular health is in part they are stimulating the production or the size of the gas known as nitric oxide. This helps to dilate your vessels so that you have better control of, say, blood pressure.
Narrator: Keen was part of an international team of scientists who also discovered that flavanols stimulate an increase in cells that helps in the growth of blood vessels.
Keen: We think these cells are important for rejuvenation or repair of vascular tissue.
Narrator: And rather than just take a pill form of these compounds, it seems the benefits are greater in food, since other nutrients can also be activated. For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.