chocolateMost of us love the rich taste of chocolate, but many people are unaware of its amazing health benefits. Cocoa includes polyphenols, are rich in antioxidants and have significant nutritional value.  When an individual has type 2 diabetes, their body either does not produce enough insulin or does not process blood sugar properly. The underlying cause of the disease beyond environmental stresses is a failure of beta cells, that are responsible for producing insulin.  BYU researchers have identified certain compounds found in cocoa that may help delay the onset of type 2 diabetes by increasing the ability to deal with oxidative stress.

In the study published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, the Brigham Young University (BYU) team fed the cocoa to animals on a high-fat diet. They found that by adding cocoa to the high-fat diet offered to the animals, the compound named ‘epicatechin monomers’ would decrease the level of obesity in the animals while increasing their ability to deal with increased blood glucose levels.  Study author Jeffery Tessem, assistant professor of nutrition, dietetics and food science at BYU said: “The epicatechin monomers are making the mitochondria in the beta cells stronger, which produces more ATP (a cell’s energy source), which then results in more insulin being released.”  As with all these studies, the authors hope to isolate the compound epicatechin monomers, as a treatment rather than having people gorge on chocolate.  However, for those that do eat chocolate the best advice is to eat those that contain low to no sugar.

The second study done by the University of Pisa, Italy, tested the association of dark chocolate enriched with extra virgin olive oil, with atherosclerosis progression (fat build-up in the artery walls) in otherwise healthy individuals with cardiovascular risk factors.  Previous studies have shown the flavonoids present in cocoa decrease blood clotting, therefore preventing the formation of blockages within blood vessels. In this new study conducted over 28 days, olive oil-enriched chocolate was associated with significantly increased EPC levels, significantly increased high-density lipoprotein or “good” cholesterol and decreased blood pressure compared to baseline.  The idea to use extra virgin olive oil as an additive to chocolate is because of the added natural polyphenols it provides.