Home > Nutrition > Cocoa, Coffee and Cancer

Cocoa, Coffee and Cancer

April 4, 2009 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

Right now I’m sitting in my office sipping a large mug of my favorite “anti-cancer cocktail”. It’s an afternoon ritual for me. But like all beliefs and rituals, it wise to occasionally reassess them to make sure the reason for practicing said rituals is still valid. So, that’s exactly what I’m going to do today.

The Kuna are a group of Indians that reside on the San Blas islands just off the coast of Panama. Scientifically speaking, they’re of great interest because they have far different mortality statistics than their neighbors who live on mainland Panama. The numbers are really quite startling:

The Home of the Kuna Indians
  • Between the years of 2000 and 2004, there were a total of 77,375 deaths on mainland Panama. In comparison, there were 558 deaths in the San Blas (where only the Kuna live).
  • The rate of heart related deaths was roughly 9 times higher in Panamanians, as compared to the Kunas.
  • The prevalence of diabetes was about 3.5 times greater in Panamanians.
  • The most dramatic figures were the cancer rates, which were roughly 15 times higher in Panama.

One of the proposed reasons is that the Kuna consume a cocoa-based beverage as their primary drink of choice. It is the antioxidants (specifically flavonoids) in cocoa that are theorized to offer at least a portion of the observed protective effect.

It’s likely that there are other nutritional, environmental or cultural factors involved in the vast differences in mortality among these populations. So I went looking for a more scientific basis for an anti-cancer effect in cocoa. Here’s what I discovered:

  • A study that’s published in the April issue of the British Journal of Nutrition offers several possible explanations for cocoas chemoprotective properties (protection against cancer). The authors of this paper first focus on the powerful antioxidants naturally found in unprocessed cocoa. They go on to point out that these substances may positively impact immune function, which is known to help keep cancer in check.
  • Additional research published in June of 2008 suggests that certain antioxidants in cocoa may specifically interfere with the growth of abnormal (cancerous) tissues.
  • A separate study, also published in June of last year, showed that a purified cocoa extract selectively inhibited the growth of 16 different types of human cancer cells. When this same extract was tested on 6 healthy cell lines, it did not cause any harm. This is vital because in order for any substance to be a viable candidate for cancer therapy, it needs to be toxic to cancer cells, but safe for normal cells.
  • Finally, a trial published in February 2008 in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention found that a concentrated cocoa powder protected rats from clinically induced prostate cancer. This study is further supported by earlier research presented in the same journal. In that experiment, the authors proclaimed that, “cocoa polyphenols extracts have an antiproliferative effect on prostate cancer cell growth, but not on normal cells at the highest tested concentration.”
Cocoa is Rich in Antioxidants

But that’s only half of the story. My self-proclaimed “anti-cancer” drink isn’t just made of organic cocoa. It also contains a generous spoonful of organic instant coffee. Coffee protects against cancer? It just might according to some of the findings that I’ve come across.

A review article that’s set to be published in May of 2009 summarizes the connection between coffee consumption and cancer in this way, “current evidence suggests that coffee consumption is associated with a reduced risk of liver, kidney and, to a lesser extent, premenopausal breast and colorectal cancers.”

There appears to be other cancers that are also sensitive to coffee intake as well. For instance, a brand new study shows a significantly reduced risk of endometrial cancer for those who drink the highest amounts of coffee or black tea.

Both chocolate and coffee have a controversial reputation in the medical community. The research I presented today is unlikely to change that. But I know that I feel a lot better enjoying a hot cup of “ChocoCoffee” with the knowledge that it just may give me the upper hand in staying cancer free in the years to come.

Oh! Did I mention that it tastes great and gives me lots of energy too?

Update from June 9, 2009 – Click Here

Be well!


Tags: , ,
Posted in Nutrition

10 Comments & Updates to “Cocoa, Coffee and Cancer”

  1. Iggy Dalrymple Says:

    “ChocoCoffee”…….sounds very potent.

    JP, it was your postings on cocoa that prompted me to start drinking it daily. I like coffee but I usually only drink it in restaurants.

    I mix my hot cocoa in reishi-green tea, with 1 oz 190 proof grain alcohol with resveratrol, powders of pomgranate, maca, hybiscus, beet, cranberry, acai, cinnamon, and muscadine peel, plus taurine, NAC, genistein, forskolin, shilajit, inulin, piracetam, and 1/2 tsp of BAC herbal antioxidant powder sweetened with stevia. All this makes a 1 qt beverage and as I drink it, I add and dilute it with more reishi-green tea. I let the berry powders and resveratrol sit overnight in the alcohol. It’s an all day beverage.

  2. JP Says:

    Good day, Iggy.

    That sounds like a powerhouse formula. How’s the taste? Taste isn’t as important to me as it used to be. I used to add some coconut milk to the “ChocoCoffee” but now I just drink it straight with a small amount of pure stevia and a coconut oil chaser.

    I’m currently taking a “superfood” greens product that contains many of the same ingredients as are in your cocktail – give or take.

    I admire your adventurous spirit. I hope that this super drink helps to keep you in the best of health. 🙂

    Be well!


  3. sundust Says:

    Have you tried the Hail Merry Chocolate Miracle Tart? I don’t think it even existed when you wrote this. It is my vice, but seems to be an acceptable one: Five ingredients: organic maple syrup, dark cocoa, organic raw coconut oil, natural raw almond flour, sea salt. Not too much sugar — 12 grams in the whole tart, 6 in half.

  4. JP Says:

    Hi Sundust,

    I have indeed. Very tasty. I like many of the Hail Merry products – both savory and sweet. The only issue I have with the company (and I told them as much at this year’s Natural Products Expo West) is their occasional use of agave syrup … which is very high in fructose. Not good. On the other hand, maple syrup isn’t half-bad when enjoyed in moderation.

    Be well!


  5. Karl Says:

    What about green tea? How it does compare?

  6. Mr Pincerna Says:

    People never learn…they have gone on for ever (or since the 1600th century) to prolong ther lifes with cacao.

    Why not try ambergis, spanish fly, musk, salep in your chocholate??

    Mr P

  7. JP Says:

    Hi Karl,

    Green tea is very promising re: cancer protection as well. Here are a few of my previous columns about this topic:




    Be well!


  8. JP Says:

    Mr. P,

    Based on my experience, individuals, physicians and researchers have become much more aware of the health benefits of non-alkalized cocoa over the past several years. There’s a great deal of exciting study going on in this specific field.

    Personally, I enjoy adding cinnamon, coconut milk and nutmeg to my sugar-free hot cocoa: https://www.healthyfellow.com/710/hot-chocolate-2010/

    Be well!


  9. JP Says:

    Update: Coffee may reduce prostate cancer risk in a dose dependent manner …


    Nutr Cancer. 2015 Feb 23:1-9.

    Coffee Consumption and Prostate Cancer Risk: A Meta-Analysis of Cohort Studies.

    This meta-analysis was conducted to assess the association between coffee consumption and prostate cancer risk. Thirteen cohort studies with 34,105 cases and 539,577 participants were included in the meta-analysis. The summary relative risks (RRs) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for different coffee intake levels were calculated. Dose-response relationship was assessed using generalized least square trend estimation. The pooled RR for the highest vs. lowest coffee intake was 0.90 (95% CI: 0.85-0.95), with no significant heterogeneity across studies (P = 0.267; I2= 17.5%). The dose-response analysis showed a lower cancer risk decreased by 2.5% (RR = 0.975; 95% CI: 0.957-0.995) for every 2 cups/day increment in coffee consumption. Stratifying by geographic region, there was a statistically significant protective influence of coffee on prostate cancer risk among European populations. In subgroup analysis of prostate cancer grade, the summary RRs were 0.89 (95% CI: 0.83-0.96) for nonadvanced, 0.82 (95% CI: 0.61-1.10) for advanced and 0.76 (95% CI: 0.55-1.06) for fatal diseases. Our findings suggest that coffee consumption may be associated with a reduced risk of prostate cancer and it also has an inverse association with nonadvanced prostate cancer. Because of the limited number of studies, more prospective studies with large sample size are needed to confirm this association.

    Be well!


  10. JP Says:

    Updated 1/28/16:


    PLoS One. 2016 Jan 27;11(1):e0147056.

    Higher Caffeinated Coffee Intake Is Associated with Reduced Malignant Melanoma Risk: A Meta-Analysis Study.

    BACKGROUND: Several epidemiological studies have determined the associations between coffee intake level and skin cancer risk; however, the results were not yet conclusive. Herein, we conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of the cohort and case-control studies for the association between coffee intake level and malignant melanoma (MM) risk.

    METHODS: Studies were identified through searching the PubMed and MEDLINE databases (to November, 2015). Study-specific risk estimates were pooled under the random-effects model.

    RESULTS: Two case-control studies (846 MM patients and 843 controls) and five cohort studies (including 844,246 participants and 5,737 MM cases) were identified. For caffeinated coffee, the pooled relative risk (RR) of MM was 0.81 [95% confidential interval (95% CI) = 0.68-0.97; P-value for Q-test = 0.003; I2 = 63.5%] for those with highest versus lowest quantity of intake. In the dose-response analysis, the RR of MM was 0.955 (95% CI = 0.912-0.999) for per 1 cup/day increment of caffeinated coffee consumption and linearity dose-response association was found (P-value for nonlinearity = 0.326). Strikingly, no significant association was found between the decaffeinated coffee intake level and MM risk (pooled RR = 0.92, 95% CI = 0.81-1.05; P-value for Q-test = 0.967; I2 = 0%; highest versus lowest quantity of intake).

    CONCLUSIONS: This meta-analysis suggested that caffeinated coffee might have chemo-preventive effects against MM but not decaffeinated coffee. However, larger prospective studies and the intervention studies are warranted to confirm these findings.

    Be well!


Leave a Comment