It has long been maligned as a source of weight gain. But chocolate could help prevent obesity and Type 2 diabetes, new research suggests. Scientists found that an antioxidant in cocoa can prevent weight gain and help lower blood sugar levels. The researchers say there is also evidence to suggest eating dark chocolate can improve thinking, decrease appetite and lower blood pressure. The latest study, published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, revealed that an antioxidant in cocoa can prevent mice from gaining weight and that it also lowered their blood sugar levels.
Dr Andrew Neilson and his colleagues explained this is because cocoa, the basic ingredient of chocolate, is one of the most flavanol-rich foods available. This is good because antioxidants – of which flavanols are one type - have been shown to help fight weight gain and Type 2 diabetes. However, not all flavanols are equally beneficial and cocoa contains many different ones. So, the research team decided to try and establish the individual health benefits of the different flavanols. The scientists fed groups of mice different diets, including high-fat and low-fat diets, and high-fat diets supplemented with different kinds of flavanols. They found that 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. ‘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,’ the researchers say. The news comes just after scientists at Louisiana State University released finding which show dark chocolate can reduce blood pressure and improve heart health. The researchers say dark chocolate is beneficial because of the way our guts ferment the fibre in cocoa beans.
Researcher Maria Moore said: ‘We found that there are two kinds of microbes in the gut: the “good” ones and the “bad” ones. ‘The good microbes, such as Bifidobacterium and lactic acid bacteria, feast on chocolate. ‘When you eat dark chocolate, they grow and ferment it, producing compounds that are anti-inflammatory.’ This naturally forming anti-inflammatory enters the bloodstream and helps protest the heart and arteries from damage.
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