Every chocolate lover carries just a little guilt over indulging in their favorite sweet. As more and more research is released revealing the health benefits of moderate chocolate consumption, that guilt dissipates a bit. But the newest research may prove to be the most surprising of all, unexpectedly linking chocolate to the possible prevention of both obesity and type 2 diabetes.
In a mouse study, led by Andrew P. Neilson of the Department of Food Science and Technology at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, researchers discovered that a certain antioxidant in cocoa – the main ingredient in chocolate – prevented mice from gaining weight and lowered their blood sugar levels.
This is not the only study to suggest that consuming chocolate can prevent such health conditions.
Earlier this year, a study claiming that chocolate, as well as wine and berries, protects against type 2 diabetes, while other research found that teens who eat lots of chocolate tend to be slimmer.
Such studies claim that the reason chocolate may have these health benefits is because of the flavanols it contains. These are types of antioxidants.
But the researchers of this most recent study say that not all flavanols are the same. In fact, cocoa has several different types.
In their study, published in the Journal of Agricultural Food and Chemistry, the investigators set out to determine exactly which flavanol may be responsible for preventing weight gain and lowering blood glucose levels.
For the research, the investigators assigned mice to one of six different diets for 12 weeks.
These consisted of high- and low-fat diets, and high-fat diets supplemented with either monomeric, oligomeric or polymeric procyandins (PCs) – types of flavanols. Mice were given 25 milligrams of these flavanols each day for every kilogram of their body weight (25 mg/kg).
The research team found that a high-fat diet supplemented with oligomeric PCs was the most effective for maintaining weight of the mice and improving glucose tolerance – a factor that could help prevent type 2 diabetes.
Commenting on the findings, the researchers say:
“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. Additional studies of prolonged feeding of flavanol fractions in vivo are needed to further identify the fractions with the highest bioactivities and, therefore, the greatest potential for translation to human clinical applications at reasonable doses.”
The investigators point out that the doses of flavanols used in this study are significantly lower than doses used in past research and are more feasible when translated into flavanol levels for human consumption.
“Therefore, our data suggest that moderate doses of cocoa flavanols or cocoa powder have the potential to be more effective in human clinical trials than previously thought,” they add.
While FoodFacts.com understands that this study is by no means suggesting we all stock up on our favorite candy bars, it is exciting news for chocolate lovers everywhere. It’s also fascinating to understand that chocolate — which has for so long been thought of as an unnecessary source of calories — may actually help prevent the diseases with which it has been associated. Hearing good news about a food we love is always a welcome thing … especially when that food is such a sweet indulgence!