A new study suggests that eating chocolate rich in cocoa may reduce the risks of obesity and type 2 diabetes.
The surprising finding comes from researchers of the Department of Food Science and Technology at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in the U.S. who found that a certain type of flavanol (antioxidant compounds) found in cocoa prevented mice from gaining weight and lowered their blood sugar levels.
Flavanols are known to provide a range of health benefits, including lowering blood pressure and improving blood flow. But not all flavanols are the same and there are several different types in cocoa, according to the authors of this latest study.
To find out exactly which flavanol is responsible for reducing blood glucose and preventing weight gain, the investigators assigned mice to groups receiving either a high-fat or low-fat diet for a period of 12 weeks. Those in the high-fat diet group were split further to receive one of the following supplements – cocoa flavanol extract or monomeric, oligomeric, or polymeric procyanidins (PCs) – types of flavanols
After 12 weeks, the mice fed oligomeric PCs were had the lowest body weight and body fat percentage, and were also least likely to have impaired glucose tolerance – a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes – despite eating a diet high in fat.
“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 explain.
The team added that the daily doses of flavanols used in this study – 25 milligrams for every kilogram of their body weight (25 mg/kg) – are much lower than doses used in past studies, suggesting that “moderate doses of cocoa flavanols or cocoa powder have the potential to be more effective in human clinical trials than previously thought”.
The research findings are published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

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