October 18, 2010

Chocolate Can Help Lower Cholesterol Levels In Diabetics

According to a study conducted at Hull University, chocolate can help diabetics control dangerously high cholesterol levels.

Other studies have suggested that chocolate with high levels of cocoa solids are rich in polyphenols, which can reduce the risk of heart disease.

The new study found that cholesterol levels fell in a small number of diabetics when given bars that are rich in polyphenols.

However, leading health charity Diabetes U.K., said the high fat and sugar content would outweigh benefits, according to BBC News.

High cholesterol levels are a problem for many people with diabetes.  It is linked strongly to an increased risk of heart disease.

The Hull study tested the theory that chemicals found in cocoa beans could influence this.

Twelve volunteers with type 2 diabetes were given identical chocolate bars, some enriched with polyphenols, over a 16 week period.

Those who were given the polyphenol-enriched bars experienced a small improvement in their overall cholesterol "profile."

Professor Steven Atkin, who led the study, told BBC that it could be because a reduction in heart risk.

He said: "Chocolate with a high cocoa content should be included in the diet of individuals with type II diabetes as part of a sensible, balanced approach to diet and lifestyle."

However, there were some concerns from researchers at Diabetes U.K. that the message would be interpreted as a "green light" to eat more chocolate.

They said that even bars with the highest levels of cocoa solids would contain high levels of fat and sugar, and could end up doing more harm than good.

Two of the U.K.'s best selling varieties of dark chocolate contain over 200 calories and up to 16 grams of fat.

Dr. Iain Frame, director of research at Diabetes U.K., told BBC that he was unconvinced by talk of health benefits.

"On no account should people take away the message from this study, conducted in only 12 people, that eating even a small amount of dark chocolate is going to help reduce their cholesterol levels.

"The tiny health benefit of this compound found in cocoa-rich chocolate would be hugely outweighed by the fat and sugar content.

"The design of the study is also somewhat unrealistic as they asked participants to eat only around half the size of a normal, dark chocolate bar every day for eight weeks.

"It would, however, be interesting to see if further research could find a way of testing whether polyphenols could be added to foods which weren't high in sugar and saturated fat such as chocolate," Frame told BBC.

The study was published in the journal Diabetic Medicine.


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