Weekly consumption of chocolate linked to lower risk for diabetes and cognitive decline according to new study
Chocolate is generally considered to be a popular treat or dessert. However, people’s love of chocolate might be based on more than just taste. There may be health-related reasons for the universal popularity of chocolate. We don’t typically think of our medicine as tasting good, so chocolate as medicine may be a difficult idea to swallow. Nonetheless, a recent study, the Maine-Syracuse Longitudinal Study (MSLS), has concluded that people who eat chocolate at least once a week have a lower incidence of diabetes and have a lower risk for developing diabetes in the next 4 to 5 years.
Researches from the University of Maine partnered with a nutritionist and psychologist from the University of South Australia to conduct this study of over 900 participants. The National Institute of Health and the National Health and Medical Research Council, Australia both supported the research. Multiple neuropsychological tests were given to participants to measure cognitive performance in relation to chocolate consumption. A 2011 article in the British Medical Journal noted that multiple research studies have shown a link between increased levels of chocolate intake and increase in cognitive function. While the MSLS study showed a decreased risk for cardiometabolic disorders, i.e. diabetes, heart disease, and stroke, associated with weekly chocolate consumption.
The major health benefits of chocolate lie in the main ingredient: cocoa or cacao. Cacao, also known as Theobroma cacao, comes from the fruit of the Cacao tree. It has been used as medicine, food, and even as a type of currency as far back as 1900 BC. Beyond being a good source of fiber, iron, zinc, copper, calcium, magnesium, and sulfur, cocoa also contains antioxidants known as flavonoids. Higher levels of antioxidants are found in the darker varieties of chocolate as they have a higher cocoa content, and help to prevent cellular damage.
Not all chocolate is created equal. There is a big difference in taste and nutritional value between natural cocoa and processed chocolate. To process cocoa or cacao into the mainstream chocolate producers add ingredients like dairy, sugar, and emulsifiers. Because of that processing, mainstream chocolate does not contain as much of the health benefits of raw cocoa. Darker variations of chocolate have been less processed and therefore maintain higher mineral and antioxidant values.
In general, chocolate seems to help us mentally while also lowering blood pressure and maintaining better cardiovascular health. Being mindful of choosing less processed chocolate can help you to increase your intake of vital nutrients and decrease your likelihood of illnesses such as diabetes, stroke, and coronary disease. Most researchers agree that more studies need to be conducted to better understand the benefits of this ancient healing treat.
“Chocolate consumption and cardiometabolic disorders: systematic review and meta-analysis” – BMJ 2011; 343 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.d4488 (Published 29 August 2011) BMJ 2011;343:d4488
“History of Cacao” – http://www.naturalnews.com/041178_cacao_history_chocolate.html
“New study indicates weekly consumption of chocolate lowers the risk for diabetes” – Margaret Nagle. https://umaine.edu/news/blog/2016/12/06/new-study-indicates-weekly-consumption-chocolate-lowers-risk-diabetes/
“Daily chocolate intake linked to lower risk of diabetes, heart disease.” – Honor Whiteman. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/309741.php
“Chocolate intake is associated with better cognitive function: The Maine-Syracuse Longitudinal Study.” – Appetite. 2016 May 1;100:126-32. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2016.02.010. Epub 2016 Feb 10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26873453/