Credit: © Peter / Fotolia

Credit: © Peter / Fotolia

Chocolate may prevent and treat diabetes

Chocolate may prevent and treat diabetes, according to the latest research from Brigham Young University.

Chocolate may be the secret to improving brain function, according to new research from Italy. Looks like chocolate is more than just a sweet treat.

Dark chocolate (organic and at least 70% cacao) is widely considered a super food by health experts. It has shown the potential to fight Alzheimer’s, reduce blood pressure, and even protect from heart disease.

The BYU researchers found that the compounds in cocoa can help the body release more insulin and handle blood sugar spikes better.

You probably have to eat a lot of cocoa, and you probably don’t want it to have a lot of sugar in it,” said study author Jeffery Tessem, assistant professor of nutrition, dietetics and food science at BYU. “It’s the compound in cocoa you’re after.”

Recently, we made a list of our favorite dark chocolate bars that are low in sugar and high in cacao. You can find it here.

The study press release explained the following methods and results:

To discover this, collaborators at Virginia Tech first fed the cocoa compound to animals on a high-fat diet. They found that by adding it to the high-fat diet, the compound would decrease the level of obesity in the animals and would increase their ability to deal with increased blood glucose levels.

The BYU team, comprised of graduate and undergraduate students in Tessem’s lab and the labs of Ben Bikman and Jason Hansen (BYU professors of physiology and developmental biology), then dove in and dissected what was happening on the cellular level — specifically, the beta cell level. That’s when they learned cocoa compounds named epicatechin monomers enhanced beta cells’ ability to secrete insulin.

What happens is it’s protecting the cells, it’s increasing their ability to deal with oxidative stress,” Tessem 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.”

There has been research on similar compounds, which have shown benefits for diabetes. But epicatechin monomers were found to be the most effective.

These results will help us get closer to using these compounds more effectively in foods or supplements to maintain normal blood glucose control and potentially even delay or prevent the onset of type-2 diabetes,” said study co-author Andrew Neilson, assistant professor of food science at Virginia Tech.

The study showing that chocolate may prevent and treat diabetes was published in The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry. 

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REFERENCES:
1. “An Unlikely Tool to Combat Diabetes: Chocolate, Say Researchers.” Brigham Young University, Brigham Young University, 24 Aug. 2017, news.byu.edu/news/unlikely-tool-combat-diabetes-cocoa-says-researchers.
2. “Monomeric Cocoa Catechins Enhance β-Cell Function by Increasing Mitochondrial Respiration.” Science Direct, The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0955286317302279?via=ihub.

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