Key Compound in Cocoa May Prevent Obesity, Diabetes

<p>The health benefits of dark chocolate have been mounting for years. Studies have shown chocolate and its compounds can improve cognition, satiety, boost heart and cardiovascular health. Recent findings published in ACS&#8217; Journal of Agricultural &amp; Food Chemistry suggest one particular type of antioxidant in cocoa prevented laboratory mice from gaining excess weight and lowered their blood sugar levels.</p>

BLACKSBURG, Va.—The health benefits of dark chocolate have been mounting for years. Studies have shown chocolate and its compounds can improve cognition, satiety, boost heart and cardiovascular health. Recent findings published in ACS’ Journal of Agricultural & Food Chemistry suggest one particular type of antioxidant in cocoa prevented laboratory mice from gaining excess weight and lowered their blood sugar levels.

Cocoa, the basic ingredient of chocolate, is one of the most flavanol-rich foods available. Previous research has shown that flavanols in other foods, such as grapes and tea, can help fight weight gain and type 2 diabetes; however, not all flavanols are created equal.

Fermentation and processing of cocoa beans influence the qualitative and quantitative profiles of individual cocoa constituents, and little is known about how different cocoa flavanols contribute to inhibition of obesity and type-2 diabetes. Researchers from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University conducted the study to compare the impacts of long-term dietary exposure to cocoa flavanol monomers, oligomers and polymers on the effects of high-fat feeding.

For the study, groups of mice were fed different diets, including high-fat and low-fat diets, and high-fat diets supplemented with different kinds of flavanols. They found adding one particular set of these compounds, known as oligomeric procyanidins (PCs), to the food made the biggest difference in keeping the mice’s weight down if they were on high-fat diets. They also improved glucose tolerance, which could potentially help prevent type 2 diabetes.

The researchers concluded that oligomeric PCs appear to possess the greatest anti-obesity and anti-diabetic bioactivities of the flavanols in cocoa, particularly at the low doses employed for the present study.

Another study published in the Journal of Nutrition found eating high levels of flavonoids, including anthocyanins, and other compounds found naturally in berries, red wine and chocolate may help ward off the onset of type 2 diabetes. Researchers at the University of East Anglia (UEA) and King's College London found those who ate the most anthocyanins were least likely to suffer chronic inflammation, which is associated with many of today’s most-pressing health concerns, including diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease and cancer. They also found study participants who consumed the most flavone compounds had improved levels of the protein adiponectin that helps regulate a number of metabolic processes including glucose levels.

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