Consuming a small amount of chocolate daily may help to lower the risk of diabetes and heart disease. This is the conclusion of a new study published in the British Journal of Nutrition. In fact, chocolate is often perceived as a treat because it is packed with a hefty dose of fat and sugar so the overconsumption can cause health problems such as tooth decay and obesity. But recently more studies have suggested that a regular, moderate chocolate consumption may offer some health benefits, particularly when it comes to dark chocolate. Dark chocolate has the highest cocoa content, which means it has the highest levels of antioxidants. Some of the antioxidants are flavonoids which are molecules that can prevent some forms of cell damage.
Study co-author Prof. Saverio Stranges – visiting academic of the University of Warwick Medical School, United Kingdom, and scientific director of the Department of Population Health at the Luxembourg Institute of Health (LIH) – and colleagues analyze the chocolate consumption of 1,153 person ages 18-69 who participated in the Observation of Cardiovascular Risk in Luxembourg (ORISCAV-LUX) study. The team has collected the data on chocolate intake from questionnaires that the subjects filled out.
Data on chocolate intake were gathered from participants’ completion of a food frequency questionnaire. The team set out to investigate whether chocolate intake is associated with insulin resistance – a condition in which the body’s cells don’t respond well to insulin, raising the risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Another goal of the study was to see how chocolate consumption affected liver enzyme levels, which is a measure of liver function and health.
The researchers found that 81.8 percent of the study participants consumed chocolates, with an average intake of about 24.8 grams daily. The participant who ate chocolate daily were found to have reduced insulin resistance and improved liver enzyme levels, compares with participants who didn’t eat chocolate every day.
The intake of tea and coffee was included in the questionnaire as both of them are rich in the antioxidants polyphenols, which the researchers say have the potential to spur chocolate’s benefits for cardiometabolic risk. In addition, the researchers observed that participants who ate chocolate were more physically active, younger, and more highly educated than those who did not eat chocolate.
Prof. Stranges and colleagues say their findings suggest that chocolate consumption may reduce the risk of developing cardiometabolic disorders by improving liver enzyme levels and protecting against insulin resistance. But it is also important to track portion size and calories, to avoid weight gain. He also notes that it is better to consume chocolate that contains natural cocoa because it contains fewer calories than processed chocolate.