(NaturalNews) Diabetics who regularly consume flavanol-rich cocoa may improve their blood vessel function and reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease, according to a study conducted by an international team of researchers and published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
Diabetes is known to be a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, including heart attack and stroke.
"We are still seeing the devastating complications of diabetes with the standard medical treatments available, so we are increasingly looking to lifestyle changes and new approaches to help address risks associated with diabetes," said researcher Paul Zimmet, director of Australia's International Diabetes Institute, which led the study. "While more research is needed, this study shows tremendous potential for future flavanol-based applications."
Researchers carried out two separate experiments on groups of volunteers who had been diagnosed with and were receiving medical treatment for Type 2 diabetes. In the first experiment, 10 volunteers were given a cocoa beverage, made using the Mars Inc., Cocoapro process. The cocoa drink contained either 75 milligrams, 371 milligrams of 963 milligrams of flavanols.
The researchers found that for several hours after drinking the beverage, volunteers experienced an improvement in flow mediated dilation (FMD), a measure of a blood vessel's ability to relax and a barometer of cardiovascular health. The higher the dose of flavanols, the greater the improvement in FMD.
In the second study, researchers gave 41 volunteers a cocoa beverage three times per day for 30 days. Each beverage contained either 25 milligrams or 321 milligrams of flavanols. Beyond the flavanol content, the beverages were nearly identical, including in content of calories, nutrients and cocoa compounds such as caffeine and theobromide.
At the end of the intervention, volunteers in the high-flavanol group had a 30 percent improvement in FMD relative to the low-flavanol group.
The researchers noted that evidence increasingly points to specific heart-health advantages of cocoa flavanols, beyond the general antioxidant benefits of all flavanols.