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Dark chocolate may reduce cholesterol levels in diabetics

By Helen Glaberson , 20-Oct-2010
Last updated on 20-Oct-2010 at 17:53 GMT

Dark chocolate could reduce cholesterol levels for people with diabetes, according to recent findings from a university study.

Researchers from the University of Hull and the Hull York Medical School claim that cholesterol levels fell in the group of 12 diabetics who were given 45g of dark chocolate bars rich in polyphenols.

“This study demonstrates that it can offer a potential reduction in cardiovascular risk without detrimental risks on weight, insulin resistance or glycaemic control,” said Steve Atkin, Professor of Diabetes and Endocrinology, who led the research.

The findings were published in Diabetic Medicine earlier this week and, according to the university, is the first study to report on the effects of giving chocolate to individuals with Type 2 diabetes over a period of 16 weeks.

However, a spokesperson for the research team told ConfectioneryNews.com that this had been a small trial and that the results should not be over interpreted: “This is the first study of its kind in subjects with diabetes, so further work to establish the effect in a larger number of patients will be required before this could be recommended to all patients.”

Polyphenols

This study does show that chocolate in moderation is not harmful and may have additional benefits, said the spokesperson.

Although polyphenols are found in a variety of foods, including fruit and vegetables, the researcher said that chocolate is a rich source of polyphenols.

The chocolate industry may also want to consider “packaging of smaller portion bars to help individuals with diabetes balance the need to control energy and sugar intake with the benefits they can potentially gain from chocolate polyphenols”, observed the spokesperson.

The study

According to the university, people with Type 2 diabetes are twice as likely to develop cardiovascular disease as one of the main contributory factors to heart disease is a low level of HDL or ‘good’ cholesterol.

Patients in the study were given chocolate either with or without a high cocoa content. The dark chocolate contained 85 per cent cocoa solids compared to the placebo which contained no cocoa solids but was dyed the same colour as the dark chocolate.

One group of subjects were given a 15g per bar and had three of these every day for a total of 16 weeks.

The total amount of sugar per bar was about 8g, meaning a total of 24g per day for the 3 bars. "This is less than a large banana, and unlike the banana the three bars were spread throughout the day," explained the team.

According to the researchers, chocolate has a low glycaemic index (GI) meaning that the glucose released into the blood from the sugars happens very slowly, much slower than bread or potatoes.

Although a relatively small cohort of study participants, said the spokesperson, the subjects did not gain weight, despite eating 45g of chocolate for a total of 16 weeks over a 20 week period. They did not see a change in the control of their diabetes either, said the reseachers.

The team said that it is currently completing a number of studies using more subjects, such as the impact of chocolate on vascular health in participants with diabetics, and added that the results of these studies will be available shortly.

Source: Diabetic Medicine
Published online ahead of print
Title: High-cocoa polyphenol-rich chocolate improves HDL cholesterol in Type 2 diabetes patients
Authors: D. Mellor, T. Sathyapalan, E. S. Kilpatrick, S. Beckett and S. L. Atkin

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