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Key ingredients in chocolate prevent obesity and diabetes in mouse model
04-04-2014

Chocolate bars have been linked to positive health effectsCan eating chocolate stave off obesity and diabetes? Not quite, but researchers say that certain ingredients present in chocolate appear to prevent these conditions in mice.

The positive health benefits of chocolate have been studied increasingly more in recent years, particularly its effects on heart health. The focus has primarily been on key compounds called flavanols. Many different types of flavanols are present in cocoa. In a recent study, researchers separated these flavanols into three main classes. They then tested these three types of flavanols in mice that were fed a high-fat diet for three months.

“We found that one specific class of compounds called oligomeric procyanidins had by far the best ability to prevent the onset of obesity and diabetes,” said Dr. Andrew Neilson, assistant professor in the Department of Food Science and Technology at Virginia Tech.

Neilson said that unlike other flavanol studies that deliver large amounts of the compound to test its effects, this study used lower doses that are more comparable to human consumption. But he warns people to think twice before reaching for a chocolate bar to prevent diabetes and obesity.

“Most people want to assume chocolate has these effects,” he said. “Chocolate has a lot of calories from fat and sugar calories, so consuming lots of chocolate to get these compounds is not recommended.”

According to Neilson, eating cocoa nibs, cocoa powder in low-fat, low-sugar foods and small portions of dark chocolate are the best ways to get these compounds while minimizing added calories. In addition, the study looked at preventing obesity and diabetes and does not speak to the potential effects of cocoa when these conditions are already present.

“We do not know the effects of these compounds in humans,” said Neilson.

The study’s findings have researchers particularly interested in developing cocoa that contains more oligomeric procyanidins.

By Marianne Hayes