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Dr. Sears' Blog

Breaking down the latest research on Anti-Inflammatory Nutrition
Written By: Dr. Barry Sears, Ph. D | Creator of the Zone Diet

Written by Dr. Barry Sears
on January 16, 2020

This week we are introducing the newest members of our polyphenol line  CacaoRx and CacaoRx Plus. In this blog Dr. Sears takes us through the background on these products and the key features they had to have before being introduced to the marketplace.

The Science

We hear a lot about the health benefits of polyphenols, but in order to maximize these benefits they need to be absorbed into the blood. This is why the clinical data on polyphenols is still rather sparse because most of the 8,000 known polyphenols are virtually insoluble in water. What we do know from the published data is that the health benefits of polyphenols are dependent upon the concentration of polyphenols being consumed, their ability to be absorbed, and most importantly their safety.

The polyphenols that have the greatest amount of clinical research to support their benefits are purified polyphenol extracts from cocoa and maqui berry. Extracts of cocoa polyphenols have been shown to help reduce insulin resistance and decrease blood pressure by improving blood flow (1,2). Extracts of maqui polyphenols have been shown to improve blood sugar levels as well as reduce oxidative stress (3,4). Both polyphenols reduce the oxidation of low density lipoprotein (LDL) particles as well as reduce oxidative stress which is major cause of unresolved inflammation (5,6). 

Concentration of Polyphenols

Maqu1Maqui: The primary polyphenols in the maqui berry are a special class known as delphinidins. Based on the unique structure of these delphinidins they are also one of the few polyphenols that can be absorbed intact into the blood (7).  Although delphinidins are found in red wine and berries, the maqui berry has the highest concentration of these unique polyphenols.  When we created MaquiRx, the purification technique used to produce it increased the concentration of the delphinidins to be 17 times greater than the starting material. This means one capsule of MaquiRx has more than 50 times the delphinidins than a glass of red wine.

Cocoa: Cocao1Only a small percentage of the polyphenols in cocoa can be directly absorbed into the blood based upon their structure (8). The lack of absorption of most cocoa polyphenols has numerous benefits for gut health based on their ability to nurture good bacteria and minimize bad bacteria. Cocoa polyphenols can reduce biofilm formation which is used by pathogenic bacteria to try to evade the immune system. As those biofilms are dissolved by cocoa polyphenols, the immune system can more easily eliminate the pathogenic bacteria. 

You would have to consume a greater amount of cocoa polyphenols than maqui polyphenols to get the same level of absorption into the blood. Even though absorption of cocoa polyphenols is low, the ones that are absorbed have been shown to help with improved blood flow, cognition, and reduction in insulin resistance.

Purity and Safety

The only way to get adequate levels of polyphenols to maximize their health benefits is to use purified extracts in addition to consuming a diet rich in non-starchy vegetables and fruits. This is why MaquiRx is the only polyphenol extract that has been purified by column chromatography.  Purity concerns are even more important when it comes to cocoa polyphenols. Cocoa polyphenols have significant health benefits, but they often are contaminated with heavy metals such as cadmium. When we created our CacaoRx line, we developed a new technique to minimize the levels of cadmium in cocoa. Both our maqui and cocoa extracts have what is known as Generally Regarded As Safe (GRAS) status. GRAS status only comes after passing an external review of experts on the manufacturing and safety of a product allowing our purified polyphenols to be used as food ingredients in addition to a supplement form. Since both polyphenol extracts (MaquiRx and CacaoRx) have GRAS status we were able to incorporate them into our ZoneRx shakes and bars making these products the only bars and shakes containing polyphenols and still be considered a food, not a supplement. 


Capsules-I recommend taking 1,000 to 1,500 mg of polyphenols per day through a combination of diet and supplementation.  It is difficult to meet these amounts even when following the healthiest of diets.  This is what led to the creation of our new line of cocoa products CacaoRx and CacaoRx Plus. These supplements use the same purified cocoa and maqui polyphenols found in our ZoneRx bars and shakes in capsule form. Now whether you use ZoneRx bars, ZoneRx shakes, or capsules containing CacaoRx or CacaoRx Plus you will be getting superior Zone nutrition with the greatest concentration, purity, safety and convenience you’ve come to expect from Zone Labs.



  1. Grassi et al. Journal of Nutr 138: 1671 (2008)
  2. Ludovici V et al. Front Nutr 4:36 (2017)
  3. Alvarado et al. Panminerva Med. 58(3 Suppl 1):1-6 (2016)
  4. Alvarado et al. Biomed Res Int. 2016:9070537 (2016)
  5. Davinelli et al. Journal of the American College of Nutrition 34:No. S1, 28–33 (2015)
  6. Davinelli et al. Journal of Nutrition Biochemistry 61: 33-39 (2018)
  7. Schon et al. Nutrients 10: E1720 (2018)
  8. Rodriguez-Mateos et al. Amer J Clin Nutr 108: 1229 (2018)


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