In last week’s column, we wrote about “comfort food products” which some people eat when they are under stress or feel depressed. A patient told me that, after reading the column, her “comfort food” is chocolate, and she eats small chocolate bars when she’s under stress.
So long as she does not consume jumbo chocolate bars in one sitting, a small amount of chocolate daily may even help prevent diabetes and its precursor, insulin resistance.
This was shown by researchers from the Luxembourg Institute of Health (LIH), at University of Warwick Medical School, University of South Australia and University of Maine.
Analyzing the data in 1,153 people enrolled in the study, aged 18-69 years old, the researchers found that eating 100 grams of chocolate a day—a regular-size bar—reduced insulin resistance, which is a known risk factor triggering the development of diabetes and cardiovascular disease (CVD).
They also noted improvement in liver enzymes, which may elevate with insulin resistance and fatty liver, also associated with diabetes.
Scientists attribute the benefit to polyphenol, which has been shown in various studies to have favorable effects on the heart, arteries and body’s metabolism.
Polyphenols can enhance the body’s production of nitric oxide, which dilates the blood vessels and enhances the integrity of the arteries.
By doing so, the progressive narrowing of the arteries, called atherosclerosis, is markedly slowed down. Medical science labels this benefit as an enhancement in endothelial function.
But aside from this, the polyphenols in chocolates can also prevent the clotting of blood inside arteries by reducing the stickiness of some blood elements such as the platelets.
Chocolates also have beneficial effects on the blood pressure.
Professor Saverio Stranges of the University of Warwick Medical School and Scientific Director of the Department of Population Health at LIH said that cocoa-based products may be an additional dietary recommendation to improve cardio-metabolic health, and should not be considered a “sinful delight.”
He cautioned, however, that one must eat natural cocoa products as much as possible, and not the sweet, energy-dense, processed chocolate products.
Previous studies have shown that chocolates can reduce the risk of developing heart disease and stroke.
In a study presented at one of the previous European Society of Cardiology scientific sessions and published in the British Medical Journal, British investigators reported that chocolate lovers had a 37-percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and a 29-percent lower risk of stroke compared with individuals who rarely ate chocolate.
However, Dr. Adriana Buitrago-Lopez (University of Cambridge, United Kingdom) and colleagues also stressed that chocolates must be taken in moderation and warned about the possible adverse effects of excessive intake. Because of the high calories it contains, too much intake can possibly lead to overweight and obesity.
“Although overconsumption can have harmful effects, the existing studies generally agree on a potential beneficial association of chocolate consumption with a lower risk of cardiometabolic disorders,” the study authors stated. “Our findings confirm this, and we found that higher levels of chocolate consumption might be associated with a one-third reduction in the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.”