It has been reported today that chocolate may help prevent Type 2 diabetes because it contains flavonoids. These are chemical compounds that aid secondary metabolism, and although not crucial to life, these compounds do strongly assist in long term health maintenance. They are commonly found in fungi, plants, microbes and other animals. These compounds were once even touted as possible extra vitamins to be added to the more common ones such as vitamin A, B-12, C etc.
The flavonoids also exist in berries, teas, and even wine.
The Journal of Nutrition reported the study from the University of East Anglia, and King’s College, in the UK. The English study included 2,000 subjects and found that flavonoids were associated with a reduction in insulin resistance in women. This is perhaps the largest study of the health benefits of chocolate yet.
Type 2 Diabetes, or adult on-set diabetes, is a condition where blood glucose levels have become too high. This can lead to constant thirst and hunger, and frequent urination. Ultimately it can lead to heart disease, and even kidney failure. It is typically treated with exercise and diet change, and if the condition worsens, insulin injections can become necessary.
Type 1 diabetes is caused by a lack of key cells in the pancreas and is typically present from birth.
The latest study looked at specific sub-groups of flavonoids, namely flavones, and anthocyanins. The flavones are found in thyme, parsley, celery and other vegetables and herbs. The anthocyanins are found in red and blue colored fruits, such as grapes, and are even found in wine after the fermentation process. The flavonoids sub-groups ability to modulate blood glucose levels, is what leads to the claim that chocolate may help control type 2 diabetes.
A second potentially beneficial effect of these bioactive compounds is that may also help reduce inflammation that is associated with a number of other diseases. Cancer, cardiovascular disease, obesity and diabetes are all associated with painful inflammation of the body.
The clear leaders in beneficial effects from the 2,000 person sample group, were the anthocyanins. Those who regularly ate these foods had the fewest issues with chronic inflammation and the best overall metabolic health.
The study took blood samples and look for biological markers associated with both diabetes and chronic inflammation.
How much of these compounds are needed to have a beneficial effect is yet to be determined. Wine and chocolate are considered by some to unhealthy foods, but establishing what level of consumption would provide a helpful dose of anthocyanins is still needed to be done.
The current study was done with the support of healthy women who are part of the TwinsUK network, an organization that maintains a registry of 12,000 twins in the UK, who are prepared to help in medical studies. The organisation is hoping to study the effect of environment and lifestyle on common diseases through the comparison of twin lifestyles and health profiles.
When further, fully randomized, testing is done, some people may be lucky enough to be in the wine and chocolate group. Although obesity is potentially a cause of Type 2 diabetes, it may be useful for many people to know that chocolate can help regulate their condition.
By Andrew Willig