An unlikely tool to combat diabetes: chocolate, say researchers
But here’s the thing: BYU researchers have discovered certain compounds found in cocoa can actually help your body release more insulin and respond to increased blood glucose better. Insulin is the hormone that manages glucose, the blood sugar that reaches unhealthy levels in diabetes.
Of course, there’s a catch.
“You probably have to eat a lot of cocoa, and you probably don’t want it to have a lot of sugar in it,” said study author Jeffery Tessem, assistant professor of nutrition, dietetics and food science at BYU. “It’s the compound in cocoa you’re after.”
When a person has diabetes, their body either doesn’t produce enough insulin or doesn’t process blood sugar properly. At the root of that is the failure of beta cells, whose job it is to produce insulin. The new study, published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, finds beta cells work better and remain stronger with an increased presence of epicatechin monomers, compounds found naturally in cocoa.
To discover this, collaborators at Virginia Tech first fed the cocoa compound to animals on a high-fat diet. They found that by adding it to the high-fat diet, the compound would decrease the level of obesity in the animals and would increase their ability to deal with increased blood glucose levels.
The BYU team, comprised of graduate and undergraduate students in Tessem's lab and the labs of Ben Bikman and Jason Hansen (BYU professors of physiology and developmental biology), then dove in and dissected what was happening on the cellular level — specifically, the beta cell level. That’s when Continue reading