A new observational study, looking at habitual chocolate consumption in middle-aged populations has found that eating an ounce of chocolate once a week is linked to half the risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
Researchers involved in the Maine-Syracuse Longitudinal Study (MSLS) asked 908 healthy subjects and 45 people with diabetes to assess how often they consumed chocolate on a weekly basis in a food frequency questionnaire.
They then looked at who – among people who weren’t already diagnosed with type 2 diabetes – had developed it five years as well as 30 years later.
It appears from self-reports that participants who ate chocolate once a week in moderate amounts were at lower risk for a diagnosis of diabetes four to five years later. Note though that self-reporting can be subjective due to people’s tendency to under-report dietary intake in such studies.
Consuming it more than once a week did not, however, decrease that risk further.
The specific quantity of chocolate eaten in one sitting by these people has not been measured in the study, and it is unclear how much other lifestyle and dietary factors could have weighed in on those risks.
Most benefits derived from eating chocolate come from the antioxidant properties of a type of polyphenols in cocoa called flavanols, and it is not known whether the study experimental period was standardised for other antioxidants accounting for the effects.
These include tea leaves and certain fruits and vegetables, which like cocoa are agents of protection against oxidative stress. There is some evidence that oxidative stress with glycation end-products in diabetes can lead to damage and development of insulin resistance.
Researchers believe that as little as 25 grams (a third of a typical chocolate bar) of chocolate once a week could be beneficial, while other studies have found that it takes much higher doses (around 900 mg of cocoa flavanols a day) to see benefits.
The type of chocolate used isn’t specified in the study but does matter, as dark chocolate packs the most flavanols. Raw cacao is usually a better choice, as most methods of processing cacao remove many of the flavanols found in the raw plant.

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