Key chocolate ingredients could help prevent obesity, diabetes

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 9th April 2014
Dark chocolate compounds could prevent obesity and type-2 diabetes

The potential health benefits of dark chocolate keep piling up, and scientists are now homing in on what ingredients in chocolate might help prevent obesity, as well as type-2 diabetes.

Researchers from the Department of Food Science and Technology at VirginiaTech University have found that one particular type of antioxidant in cocoa prevented laboratory mice from gaining excess weight and lowered their blood sugar levels. The study, published in the April 2014 edition of the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, showed that cocoa, the basic ingredient of chocolate, was one of the most flavanol-rich foods available. Previous research has shown that flavanols in other foods such as grapes and tea can help fight weight gain and type-2 diabetes.

But not flavanols, which are a type of antioxidant, are created equal. Cocoa has several different kinds of these compounds, so the VirginiaTech University researchers decided to tease them apart and test each individually for health benefits.

Study method

The researchers 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 different 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 antiobesity and antidiabetic bioactivities of the flavanols in cocoa, particularly at the low doses employed for the present study,” the researchers wrote.

Australian Food News reported in March 2014 that researchers had found that the fermentation of particular compounds in dark chocolate in the human gut changed them into anti-inflammatory compounds, which could be responsible for dark chocolate’s various health benefits.