Is cocoa a healthy treat for diabetics?

May 27th, 2008 - 1:17 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, May 27 (IANS) A specially formulated high-flavanol cocoa drink administered to diabetics over a month helped normalise severely impaired blood vessel function. The improvement was observed to be as large as has been with exercise and many common diabetic medications, a new study has indicated.

These findings suggest that it may be time to think outside the box, for innovative ways to ward off cardiovascular disease - the number one cause of death in diabetic patients.

A craving for cocoa might be healthy in the long run since it appears to mend blood vessels and might even be considered part of a healthy diet for prevention of heart disease.

Flavanols, natural plant compounds found in tea, red wine, and certain fruits and vegetables, are what adds a healthy zing to cocoa.

“Medical treatments alone often do not prevent complications of diabetes that are associated with atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease,” said Malte Kelm of Technical University Aachen, Germany.

For the study, Kelm first tested the feasibility of using high-flavanol cocoa to improve cardiovascular health by observing, on three separate days, the effects of cocoa with varying amounts of flavanols on blood vessel function in 10 patients with stable type 2 diabetes.

The second, larger part of the study tested the effectiveness of long-term, routine consumption of high-flavanol cocoa in comparison with low-flavanol cocoa in 41 patients with stable type 2 diabetes.

The researchers found that patients with type 2 diabetes had a severely impaired fibromuscular dysplasia (FMD) response - or poor expanding of blood vessels - at the beginning of the study.

Before patients consumed any cocoa, the brachial artery expanded by only 3.3 percent, on average. Two hours after drinking high-flavanol cocoa, the FMD response was 4.8 percent.

Over time, those findings improved, however. After patients drank high-flavanol cocoa three times daily for eight days, the average FMD response improved to 4.1 percent at baseline and to 5.7 percent two hours after cocoa ingestion.

By day 30, the FMD response had improved to 4.3 percent at baseline and 5.8 percent after cocoa ingestion. All of the improvements were highly statistically significant.

The findings of the study are being published in the forthcoming issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

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