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Originally published June 24 2008

New Research Shows Cocoa Can Help Diabetics' Hearts

by Sherry Baker, Health Sciences Editor

(NaturalNews) For people with diabetes, indulging in cocoa could be a way to improve their health naturally -- and deliciously. The reason? Flavanols, plant compounds found in cocoa (as well as in tea, red wine, and certain fruits and vegetables), help blood vessels to function better and could help prevent cardiovascular disease, according to new research published in the June 3 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC).

An international team of scientists gave diabetic patients high-flavanol cocoa for one month and found blood vessel function went from severely impaired to normal in some people. Overall, the research subjects experienced a 30 percent improvement in measured vessel function at the completion of a 30-day trial. This is very significant, the researchers noted, because cardiovascular disease is the top cause of death in diabetic patients. In fact, the improvement in health noted with cocoa supplementation was about the same as that documented with exercise and even with many common drugs used to treat diabetics.

"Medical treatments alone often do not prevent complications of diabetes that are associated with atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease," researcher Malte Kelm, M.D., chairman of cardiology, pulmonology and vascular medicine at the University Hospital Aachen and the Technical University Aachen, in Aachen, Germany, stated in a press release. "Physicians should be increasingly looking to lifestyle changes and new approaches to help in addressing the cardiovascular risks associated with diabetes."

More than 20 million Americans have diabetes, according to the National Diabetes Association, and vascular impairments associated with the disease can eventually lead to heart disease and stroke, despite good diabetes control and medical treatment.

"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," co-researcher Paul Zimmet, MD, PhD, Director of the International Diabetes Institute in Australia, said in a prepared statement for the press about the study. "While more research is needed, this study shows tremendous potential for future flavonol-based applications."

In an editorial discussing the evidence cocoa can significantly help the cardiovascular systems of diabetics, Umberto Campia, M.D., a research associate with MedStar Research Institute in Washington, D.C., writes: "We now have sizeable evidence that cocoa flavanols have a positive effect on the health of the arteries. This is the foundation we need for doing a much larger prospective study that looks at the effect of cocoa flavanols not just on endothelial function, but also on the risk of heart attack, stroke, and other serious forms of cardiovascular disease."

Earlier published research conducted by Harvard Medical School scientists and the Mars company has shown that flavanol-rich unprocessed cocoa reduces the risks of cancer as well as heart disease.

About the author

Sherry Baker is a widely published writer whose work has appeared in Newsweek, Health, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Yoga Journal, Optometry, Atlanta, Arthritis Today, Natural Healing Newsletter, OMNI, UCLA’s "Healthy Years" newsletter, Mount Sinai School of Medicine’s "Focus on Health Aging" newsletter, the Cleveland Clinic’s "Men’s Health Advisor" newsletter and many others.

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