Dark chocolate has the potential to prevent type 2 diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and dementia.

darkIn another study which no doubt will delight chocolate lovers, additional health benefits to chocolate has been determined. In this study different groups of lab mice were fed a different diet including high-fat and low-fat diets, and high-fat diets supplemented with different kinds of flavanols.

It was determined 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 are contained in cocoa and 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 flavanol ingredient in chocolate originates from the cacoa seeds, which has been characterized as a super fruit due to the high levels of their antioxidant activity. A previous study determined that both dark chocolate and cocoa had a greater antioxidant capacity and a greater total flavanol, and polyphenol, content than fruit juices.

Flavanols can be found in tea, grapes, red wine, apples and cocoa products and have also been associated with a decreased risk of dementia.

In one study, 90 elderly participants with mild cognitive impairment drank either 990 milligrams (high), 520 mg (intermediate) or 45 mg (low) of a dairy-based cocoa flavanol drink for eight weeks on a daily basis. The diet was restricted to eliminate other sources of flavanols from foods and beverages other than the dairy-based cocoa drink.

Cognitive function was examined by neuro-psychological tests of executive function, working memory, short-term memory, long-term episodic memory, processing speed and global cognition.

Researchers found:

Scores significantly improved in the ability to relate visual stimuli to motor responses, working memory, task-switching and verbal memory for those drinking the high and intermediate flavanol drinks.

Participants drinking daily higher levels of flavanol drinks had significantly higher overall cognitive scores than those participants drinking lower-levels.

Insulin resistance, blood pressure and oxidative stress also decreased in those drinking high and intermediate levels of flavanols daily. Changes in insulin resistance explained about 40 percent of the composite scores for improvements in cognitive functioning.

“This study provides encouraging evidence that consuming cocoa flavanols, as a part of a calorie-controlled and nutritionally-balanced diet, could improve cognitive function,” said Giovambattista Desideri, M.D., study lead author and director of Geriatric Division, Department of Life, Health and Environmental Sciences, University of L’Aquila in Italy. “The positive effect on cognitive function may be mainly mediated by an improvement in insulin sensitivity. It is yet unclear whether these benefits in cognition are a direct consequence of cocoa flavanols or a secondary effect of general improvements in cardiovascular function.”


Stephen J. Crozier, Amy G. Preston, W. Jeffrey Hurst, Mark J. Payne, Julie Mann, Larry Hainly and Debra L. Miller. Cacao seeds are a ‘Super Fruit’: A comparative analysis of various fruit powders and products. Chemistry Central Journal, 2011; 5: 5 DOI: 10.1186/1752-153X-5-5

Melanie R. Dorenkott, Laura E. Griffin, Katheryn M. Goodrich, Katherine A. Thompson-Witrick, Gabrielle Fundaro, Liyun Ye, Joseph R. Stevens, Mostafa Ali, Sean F. O’Keefe, Matthew W. Hulver, Andrew P. Neilson. Oligomeric Cocoa Procyanidins Possess Enhanced Bioactivity Compared to Monomeric and Polymeric Cocoa Procyanidins for Preventing the Development of Obesity, Insulin Resistance, and Impaired Glucose Tolerance during High-Fat Feeding. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2014; 62 (10): 2216 DOI: 10.1021/jf500333y

Ghiadoni, Daniela Mastroiacovo, Angelo Raffaele, Livia Ferri, Raffaella Bocale, Maria Carmela Giovambattista Desideri, Catherine Kwik-Uribe, Davide Grassi, Stefano Necozione, et al. Flavanol Consumption in Elderly Subjects With Mild Cognitive Impairment: The Cocoa,Benefits in Cognitive Function, Blood Pressure, and Insulin Resistance Through Cocoa. Hypertension. 2012;60:794-801; originally published online August 14, 2012.

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