An international group of researchers has said that people suffering from type 2 diabetes may be benefited by consuming a cup of cocoa daily.
Writing about their findings in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, the researchers said that daily consumption of cocoa flavanol-rich beverages might have the potential to positively impact the blood vessel dysfunction associated with diabetes.
The researchers said that the participants who regularly consumed a cocoa flavanol-rich beverage made using the Mars, Incorporated Cocoapro process in their study experienced a 30 per cent improvement in measured vessel function at the completion of the 30-day trial.
"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. While more research is needed, this study shows tremendous potential for future flavanol-based applications," said Dr. Paul Zimmet, Director of the International Diabetes Institute in Australia.
Both the impact of immediate and regular consumption of a flavanol-rich cocoa drink on vascular function in diabetic adults were investigated during the study.
The first part of the study saw medically-treated adults with type 2 diabetes drink a well-characterized and standardized cocoa beverage that had different flavanol levels, ranging from 75 to 963 milligrams.
The participants also had their blood vessel function measured for several hours following consumption.
It was observed that there was a positive correlation between the flavanol dose consumed and immediate improvements in flow mediated dilation (FMD), the ability of a vessel to relax.
The second part of the study saw adults with established diabetes, who were medically controlled, consuming either a flavanol-containing cocoa beverage or a low-flavanol control three times a day, for 30 days.
The cocoa beverages contained either 25 milligrams of cocoa flavanols (control) or 321 milligrams of cocoa flavanols (treatment) and were matched for calories, nutrients and other cocoa compounds like theobromine and caffeine.
It was observed that beyond the immediate improvements in FMD following flavanol consumption, the participants experienced sustained improvements in blood vessel function upon consuming the flavanol-containing cocoa over a period of 30 days.
"We were pleasantly surprised by the magnitude of impact of cocoa flavanols on vascular function in these diabetic adults," said Mars, Incorporated Chief Science Officer Dr. Harold Schmitz.
"If a dietary intervention with cocoa flavanols can produce such profound, sustained improvements in vascular function on-top of standard medication in a population with increased risk for cardiovascular diseases, the implications with regard to health and quality of life could be remarkable," Schmitz added.
The research team, however, admitted that larger trials were required to fully demonstrate the clinical relevance of flavanol-rich foods in the context of cardiovascular health and disease.