Diets rich in cocoa may help people with diabetes to regulate insulin levels, according to new research.
A study by Cordero-Herrera et al. in the Molecular Nutrition & Food Research journal analysed how epicatechin, a main flavanol in cocoa abundant in dark chocolate, can impact insulin levels.
Diabetics have high blood sugar because the pancreas does not produce enough insulin, or because cells fail to respond to the insulin that is produced.
‘Cocoa useful to manage diabetes’
The researchers concluded that “a diet rich in epicatechnin and/or cocoa may be a potential chemopreventive tool useful for the management of diabetes”.
“Our data suggest that epicatechin and cocoa phenolic extract strengthen the insulin signalling by activating key proteins of that pathway and regulating glucose production through activated protein kinase and modulation in HepG2 cells.”
The study said that current medications to maintain long-term glycemic control in most diabetics were inadequate and cocoa may be the answer.
However, a dietician and charity Diabetes UK have warned that the concentration of flavanols may be too low in chocolate and the extra sugar, fat and calories from upping dark chocolate consumption would outweigh any potential benefits. See HERE.
Method and concentrations
The researchers of the study analyzed the impact of cocoa polyphenol extracts containing epicatechin on hepatic HepG2 cells, liver tissues.
The concentration of epicatechin in the cocoa polyphenol extract ranged from 13.2 nM to 132 nM.
The researchers found that insulin pathways and receptors were improved when subjected to the extracts.
Previous research funded by Mars, found that cocoa flavanols could boost brain functioning and said that the effect was mainly mediated by an improvement in insulin sensitivity. See HERE.
Mol. Nutr. Food Res. 2013, 00, 1–12
‘Cocoa flavonoids improve insulin signalling and modulate glucose production via AKT and AMPK in HepG2 cells’
Authors: Isabel Cordero-Herrera, Marıa Angeles Martin, Laura Bravo, Luis Goya and Sonia Ramos