April 3, 2014
The Benefits Of Chocolate Now Include Helping To Fight Obesity And Diabetes
Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Past research has shown that antioxidant compounds in chocolate called flavanols can provide a wide range of benefits – from lower blood pressure to improved cognitive performance.
Now, a new study in the Journal of Agricultural & Food Chemistry has honed in on exactly what within these compound provides the observed benefit: oligomeric procyanidins (PCs).
"Oligomeric PCs appear to possess the greatest antiobesity and antidiabetic bioactivities of the flavanols in cocoa, particularly at the low doses employed for the present study," the study team wrote in their report.
In the study, mice were broken into groups and received either a high-fat or low-fat diet. Those animals that received a high-fat diet also received supplements for 12 weeks. One supplement group was fed a cocoa flavanol extract, while other groups were offered monomeric, oligomeric, or polymeric procyanidins.
The researchers found that those who were fed oligomeric PCs had the lowest body fat, smallest body weight, and were least likely to have impaired sugar tolerance and insulin intolerance – despite consuming a high-fat diet.
The new report comes after a study on chocolate released by Louisiana State University researchers in March that found certain bacteria in the stomach eat the chocolate and ferment it into anti-inflammatory compounds that are good for the heart.
“We found that there are two kinds of microbes in the gut: the ‘good’ ones and the ‘bad’ ones,” explained Maria Moore, an undergraduate student at LSU.
“The good microbes, such as Bifidobacterium and lactic acid bacteria, feast on chocolate,” she said. “When you eat dark chocolate, they grow and ferment it, producing compounds that are anti-inflammatory.”
The other bacteria in the gut —such as E. coli and Clostridia — are associated with inflammation and can cause gas, bloating, constipation and other digestive problems.
“When these compounds are absorbed by the body, they lessen the inflammation of cardiovascular tissue, reducing the long-term risk of stroke,” said team leader John Finley, a food scientist at LSU. “In our study we found that the fiber is fermented and the large polyphenolic polymers are metabolized to smaller molecules, which are more easily absorbed. These smaller polymers exhibit anti-inflammatory activity.”
Foods including raw garlic and whole wheat flour are undigestible by humans, yet they contain prebiotics, or kinds of carbohydrates, which symbiotic bacteria in the gut like to eat. Prebiotics can also be seen in dietary supplements.
Using a model of the digestive tract, the LSU team found that a combination of cocoa’s fiber with prebiotic compounds is likely to improve a person’s overall health. The combination allows for helping to convert polyphenolics in the stomach into anti-inflammatory compounds.
“When you ingest prebiotics, the beneficial gut microbial population increases and outcompetes any undesirable microbes in the gut, like those that cause stomach problems,” Finley said.
When chocolate is combined with solid fruits such as pomegranates and acai, even more health benefits can be obtained. Finley said that the next step might be for the health food industry to put together a comprehensive dietary regimen based in these findings.