Could chocolate prevent type 2 diabetes?

The health benefits of dark chocolate just keep getting more convincing.

In addition to studies that have suggested dark chocolate can lower insulin resistance, reduce blood pressure, and decrease appetite, new research published in the Journal of Agricultural & Food Chemistry found that antioxidants in cocoa prevented laboratory mice from gaining excess weight – and it also lowered their blood sugar levels.

Flavanols related to health benefits

The good-for-you components found in cocoa are called flavanols, but not all flavanols are created equal, explained study author Andrew P. Neilson. Since cocoa has many different types of flavanols, which are a type of antioxidant, Neilson and his team decided to test them separately to see what health benefits were associated with each one.

The team found that one particular set of flavanol compounds, called oligomeric procyanidins (PCs), created the biggest difference in preventing weight gain in mice who were on a high-fat diet. Not only that, but these flavanols also improved glucose tolerance – a potentially protective effect against type 2 diabetes.

"Oligomeric PCs appear to possess the greatest antiobesity and antidiabetic bioactivities of the flavanols in cocoa, particularly at the low doses employed for the present study," the researchers wrote.

Small amounts of dark chocolate is generally considered safe for pre-diabetics and diabetics, but cocoa products vary in terms of sugar and fat content. Portion control is key. Also be aware of sugar substitutes that might be present in diabetic chocolate – these can cause digestive disturbances in some people.

For some inspiration using dark chocolate in dessert recipes, try these seven diabetic-friendly sweet treats from Reader's Digest.

Source: American Chemical Society

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