Do you feel guilty about eating chocolate? Well, the findings of a study might encourage you to eat more chocolate, especially the dark kind. The study conducted by researchers in the UK and Luxembourg suggest doctors may one day prescribe chocolate as a medicine for diabetes and heart disease.
Eating chocolate everyday may lower the risk of diabetes and heart disease, according to researchers from the University of Warwick Medical School and Luxembourg Institute of Health (LIH).
Although overconsumption of chocolate may lead to health problems because of its high sugar and fat content, new studies are pointing to the health benefits of eating chocolate, particularly dark chocolate.
Dark chocolate has the highest amount of cocoa in it, therefore it also has the highest antioxidant levels – especially a type of antioxidant called flavonoids – which are known to prevent cell damage.
For the study, Prof. Saverio Stranges, visiting academic of the University of Warwick Medical School, and colleagues, recruited 1,153 participants aged 18-69. The team analyzed chocolate consumption of these individuals, who were part of a study called Observation of Cardiovascular Risk in Luxembourg.
Participants had to complete a food frequency questionnaire, which provided researchers with the data of the participants’ habit of eating chocolate.
Prof. Stranges and colleagues set out to examine whether eating chocolate is linked with insulin resistance. Insulin resistance occurs when the cells in the body do not respond to insulin effectively, and thereby increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
According to the researchers, 81.8% of the subjects ate chocolate, and the average consumption was 24.8 grams per day.
Chocolate’s effect on the liver was also assessed by measuring liver enzyme levels.
Eating chocolate daily reduced insulin resistance
Findings showed that participants who ate chocolate every day have decreased insulin resistance and increased levels of liver enzyme, compared with those who did not eat chocolate every day. The higher the chocolate consumption, the stronger was the effect, the researchers said.
The results remained after taking into account participants’ sex, age, lifestyle, education, and dietary factors.
Participants’ tea and coffee intake was a part of the dietary factors, because these two beverages are loaded with a type of antioxidant called polyphenols. According to the researchers, these antioxidants have the potential to stimulate chocolate’s power to reduce cardiometabolic risk – an individual’s odds of developing heart disease, diabetes, or stroke.
The researcher stated that the subjects who consumed chocolate were younger, more physically active, and had higher education levels compared to those who did not munch on chocolate.
The team says their findings suggest that chocolate may lower cardiometabolic disease risk by increasing levels of liver enzyme and shielding against insulin resistance.
Considering the ever increasing number of evidence, including this new study, cocoa-based products may render an added dietary recommendation to enhance cardiometabolic health, says Prof. Stranges. However, strong trial evidence is needed to support these observational results, he adds.
Prof. Stranges advises doctors to add chocolate to the list of recommendations for people who want to keep their heart healthy. However, he notes that people should know the difference between natural cocoa-based chocolate and processed chocolate, as the latter is high in calories.
Hence, it is important to balance diet, physical activity and other lifestyle factors in order to avoid harmful weight gain, he added.
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