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Can Cocoa Extract and a Multivitamin Help Prevent Heart Disease and Cancer?

Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center are collaborating in a new research study, known as the COcoa Supplement and Multivitamin Outcomes Study (COSMOS), for the most extensive study to date testing the roles of cocoa extract and a multivitamin in improving health, including preventing heart disease and cancer.

Previous studies of cocoa flavanols conducted by researchers at BWH and other institutions have found that cocoa may reduce the risk of heart disease (including a short-term decrease in blood pressure), as well as slow age-related cognitive decline. BWH researchers have also previously found that multivitamin use modestly reduced cancer risk in a trial of more than 14,000 male physicians.

“COSMOS will allow us to further explore these promising nutritional supplements in both men and women as part of a large-scale national clinical trial,” said Dr. JoAnn Manson, Chief of the Division of Preventive Medicine at BWH and Co-Director of COSMOS with BWH epidemiologist Dr. Howard Sesso.

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The COcoa Supplement and Multivitamin Outcomes Study (COSMOS) is the most extensive study to date testing the roles of cocoa extract and a multivitamin in improving health.

The COSMOS trial is expected to enroll 18,000 men (aged 60 and older) and women (aged 65 and older) who have no history of heart attack or stroke, a new diagnosis of cancer in the past two years, or any other major illness that would prevent them from completing this four-year study. Participants will be randomly assigned to one of four groups: daily cocoa extract and multivitamin; daily cocoa extract and multivitamin placebo (tablet with no active ingredient); daily cocoa extract placebo (capsule with no active ingredient) and multivitamin; or both placebos. Participants have an equal chance of being assigned to any of these four groups and a three out of four chance of getting at least one active agent.

If you would like to learn more about the COSMOS trial, including other eligibility criteria to participate, please visit the COSMOS website at, email, or call 1-800-633-6913.

-- By Jessica F.