Cacao is an important agricultural commodity and serves as the main ingredient in chocolate manufacturing. It is derived from beans of the cacao tree (Theobroma cacao L.) belonging to the Malvaceae family (Afoakwa et al. 2008). Cacao is a widely consumed food ingredient and phytochemicals profile in cacao beans varies for different genotypes, origins, and cocoa-containing products (Manach et al. 2004).


Polyphenols have gained much interest lately due to its antioxidant capacity and possible benefits to human health for instance anti-thrombotic, anti-carcinogenic, anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, anti-atherogenic, and analgesic effect. Polyphenols have classified into main polyphenolic compound for instance phenols, benzoquinones, phenolic acids, acetophenones, phenylacetic acid, flavonoids, lignans, lignins, and others (Hii et al. 2009).


Cacao is a rich source of phenolic, flavonoids, and other antioxidant properties. It was reported cacao contained higher flavonoids per serving than teas and red wine (Lee et al. 2003).  The cacao polyphenols contents are about 12 to 18% by weight of a dried fermented bean (Hii et al. 2009).  About 60% of the total phenolic compounds are procyanidin, epicatechin, and catechin in raw cacao beans (Dreosti, 2002). It was also reported that raw cacao beans contain higher amount of flavan-3-ol, and flavan-3-ols (catechin and epicatechin). These compounds have a potential competitor to inhibit or delay the oxidative damages in our body (Adamson et al. 2009).  Furthermore, the composition and amount of polyphenols in cacao beans vary with bean cultivars, origins, and the methods of processing (Abhay et al. 2016). On the other hand, Subhashini et al. (2010) has also studied the phenols and flavonoid content in both green tea and cocoa. Results revealed that one serving of cocoa has higher amount of polyphenols that that of green tea.


In addition to polyphenols, cacao contains methylxanthine compounds, predominantly theobromine and caffeine (Katz and Doughty, 2011). Theobromine belongs to the group of purine alkaloids which are synthesized in tea, coffee, and cacao (Ashihara et al. 2011). On the other hand, caffeine can be found in coffee, tea, and some soft drinks. Caffeine has a stimulating effect in the brain, increasing the psychomotor reactions and blood pressure, whereas theobromine acts as a muscle relaxant, diuretic and blood pressure reducer (Van den Bogaard et al. 2010; Bruinsma & Taren, 1999). Neufingerl et al. (2013) has conducted cocoa intervention studies on the ability of theobromine to increase serum HDL cholesterol as theobromine possess high bioavailability and multiple biological activities. Furthermore, some studies have shown theobromine stimulates heart muscle, relaxes bronchial smooth muscles in the lungs and plays an important role in the transmission of intracellular signals (Blink et al. 1972; Shively et al. 1984, Sprügel et al. 1977). There is also study has been carried out on theobromine compound by Scapagnini et al. (2012), and researchers discovered that theoromine has antioxidant activity and several antioxidant compounds may be an effective treatment for depressive disorders. Heinrich et al. (2006) has carried out in vivo human skin studies on the effects of diet intervention for cocoa beverage. Studies have shown the strong anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, photoprotective, and chemopreventive effects observed particularly in cocoa beverage rich in flavonols after oral consumption for 12 weeks.

Benns’ Research on Cacao Antioxidant Properties:

Figure 1 and 2:  Malaysia and Vietnam Origin Raw Cacao Bean and Husk Sample Extraction for Antioxidant  Properties Testing.

Figure 3: Venezuela, Malaysia, and Vietnam Origin Raw Cacao Bean and Husk Sample Extraction for Antioxidant Capacity Testing.

Testing Result:

       Type                                       Raw Cacao Bean
 Beans Origin Malaysia Vietnam Venezuela
Total Phenolic Content (mg/100g) 1602.89 937.11 1540.89
DPPH Free Radical Scavenging Capacity (mg/100g) 2127.78 829.78 1165.00


       Type                                       Raw Cacao Husk
 Beans Origin Malaysia Vietnam Venezuela
Total Phenolic Content (mg/100g) 580.69 842.13 1194.71
DPPH Free Radical Scavenging Capacity (mg/100g) 569.57 723.22 1165.00


Testing results showed that Malaysia bean has the highest total phenolic content (1602.89 mg/100g), followed by Venezuela (1540.89 mg/100g) and Vietnam (937.11mg/ 100g) raw cacao bean. For raw cacao husk, Venezuela husk has the highest total phenolic content (1194.71mg/100g), followed by Vietnam (842.13mg/ 100g) and least was Malaysia raw cacao husk (580.69mg/100g).

For Antioxidant Capacity (free radical scavenging capacity), Venezuela raw cacao husk has the highest scavenging capacity (1165.00), followed by Vietnam (723.22) and Malaysia (569.57) raw cacao husk. Furthermore, the scavenging capacity for Malaysia raw cacao bean is the highest value (2127.78), followed by Venezuela (1165.00) and Vietnam (829.78) raw cacao bean.

In a nutshell, Malaysia origin raw cacao bean has the highest antioxidant properties and Venezuela origin cacao husk possesses the highest antioxidant properties.

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