Naturally Occurring Compounds in Cocoa Tied to Blood Flow Improvements for Adults With Type 2 Diabetes

Tuesday, May 27, 2008 General News
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MCLEAN, Va., May 27 Scientists have found that consumingcocoa flavanols -- naturally occurring compounds in cocoa -- may offer abenefit to those affected by type-2 diabetes.

Consuming a cocoa flavanol-rich beverage daily may have the potential topositively impact the blood vessel dysfunction associated with diabetes,suggests a first-of-its-kind study recently published in the Journal of theAmerican College of Cardiology by an international group of scientists. Studyparticipants who regularly consumed a cocoa flavanol-rich beverage made usingthe Mars, Incorporated Cocoapro(R) process experienced a 30 percentimprovement in measured vessel function at the completion of a 30-day trial.

Poor blood vessel function is recognized as an early stage in thedevelopment process of cardiovascular diseases such as atherosclerosis. Formore than 20 million Americans living with diabetes, these vascularimpairments can eventually lead to heart disease and stroke, the cause ofdeath for two-thirds of those who suffer from diabetes. Despite good diabetescontrol and medical treatment, adults with the disease often continue toexperience vascular dysfunction. This has led scientists on a search for novelmedical or nutritional options to improve the health and quality of life forpeople with diabetes.

"We are still seeing the devastating complications of diabetes with thestandard medical treatments available, so we are increasingly looking tolifestyle changes and new approaches to help address risks associated withdiabetes," said Paul Zimmet, MD, PhD, Director of the International DiabetesInstitute in Australia. "While more research is needed, this study showstremendous potential for future flavanol-based applications."

In this study, the impact of both immediate and regular consumption of aflavanol-rich cocoa drink on vascular function in diabetic adults wasinvestigated. In the first part of this study, medically-treated adults withtype 2 diabetes -- a population known to have impaired blood vessel function,putting them at higher risk for cardiovascular disease -- drank awell-characterized and standardized cocoa beverage made using the MarsCocoapro(R) process that contained different flavanol levels, ranging from 75to 963 milligrams, and had their blood vessel function measured for severalhours following consumption. The researchers found a positive correlationbetween the flavanol dose consumed and immediate improvements in FMD (flowmediated dilation, a measure of vessel health, i.e. the ability of a vessel torelax).

In a subsequent controlled 30-day, double-masked clinical trial, adultswith established diabetes who were medically controlled, drank either aflavanol-containing cocoa beverage or a low-flavanol control three times aday. The cocoa beverages contained either 25 milligrams of cocoa flavanols(control) or 321 milligrams of cocoa flavanols (treatment) and were matchedfor calories, nutrients and other cocoa compounds such as theobromine andcaffeine

Beyond the immediate improvements in FMD following flavanol consumption,participants experienced sustained improvements in blood vessel function uponconsuming the flavanol-containing cocoa over a period of 30 days (30 percentincrease in FMD between day one and 30).

"We were pleasantly surprised by the magnitude of impact of cocoaflavanols on vascular function in these diabetic adults," said Mars,Incorporated Chief Science Officer Harold Schmitz, PhD. "If a dietaryintervention with cocoa flavanols can produce such profound, sustainedimprovements in vascular function on-top of standard medication in apopulation with increased risk for cardiovascular diseases, the implicationswith regard to health and quality of life could be remarkable."

While this study is very promising, the researchers indicate that largertrials are necessary to fully demonstrate the clinical relevance of

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