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Cacao

Cacao stabilizes blood sugar; chocolate may actually help diabetics

Thursday, August 02, 2007 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
Tags: cacao, chocolate, blood sugar


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(NewsTarget) Obese, diabetic mice whose diet was supplemented with an extract of cacao liquor demonstrated a significant reduction in blood sugar levels in a Japanese study reported in the journal Nutrition.

"The dietary intake of food or drinks produced from cacao beans might be beneficial in preventing the onset of Type 2 diabetes," the study's authors wrote.

Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body becomes desensitized to the sugar-regulating hormone insulin. Type 1 diabetes is caused by an actual deficiency of insulin due to low production by the body. Both lead to high blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia).

An estimated 7 percent of the U.S. population -- 21 million people -- have been diagnosed with diabetes. The American Diabetes Association further estimates that 6.2 million people remain undiagnosed and another 41 million are prediabetic.

Researchers supplemented the diets of obese, diabetic mice with either 0, 0.5 or 1.0 percent cacao liquor proanthocyanidins (CLPr) -- containing 72 percent polyphenols -- for three weeks. They found that blood sugar was reduced in direct correlation with the dosage of CLPr.

Proanthocyanidins are a type of flavonoid, a plant chemical known to have antioxidant properties. Previous studies have found evidence that eating flavonoid-rich chocolate reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. The current study, however, is the first to record an effect of cacao chemicals on blood sugar levels.

The one percent dose given to the mice would be the equivalent of a human consuming 5 grams of polyphenols per day. This could be achieved by eating 2.5 kilograms of normal chocolate, or 100 grams of flavonol-rich chocolate. However, those considering experimenting with this technique should note that eating sugared chocolate could easily negate any benefits of the flavonoids in the cacao.

Much of the research on the health benefits of flavonols -- but not the current study -- has been funded by confectionary giant Mars, Inc.

"It is important that consumers realize even though cacao itself may be useful for stabilizing blood sugar, most chocolate products actually contain refined sugar as a sweetening ingredient," explained Mike Adams, author of How to Halt Diabetes in 25 Days. "Eating sugar along with chocolate is not very smart, especially for someone suffering from diabetes or other blood sugar disorders. I recommend raw, unprocessed, unsweetened cacao, which is extremely bitter and highly medicinal," Adams said. Raw cacao may be purchased at raw food retailers such as www.RawFoods.com or www.RawGuru.com

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