- Compounds present in cocoa may help delay the onset of type 2 diabetes, finds a new study
- Epicatechin monomers is a cocoa compound that enhanced beta cells' ability to secrete insulin
- This compound can be added to foods or supplements to maintain normal blood glucose control and also prevent or delay the onset of type-2 diabetes
naturally in cocoa can help the body release more insulin and respond to
increased blood glucose better, finds a new study conducted by a research team
at the Brigham Young University (BYU).
Cocoa is rich in flavanols, which are a class of polyphenols. Studies have shown that cocoa flavonols benefit health in different ways. Monomeric, oligomeric and polymeric cocoa flavonols have different effects on insulin resistance, glucose tolerance, and obesity. For the current study, the research team focused on the effects of cocoa flavonols on beta cell function.
How Cocoa Delays the Onset of Type 2 Diabetes?
A study was conducted on mice to find the effect of cocoa on delaying the onset of diabetes. Collaborators at Virginia Tech fed cocoa compound to mice on a high-fat diet. The research team found that adding the cocoa compound to the high-fat diet can decrease the level of obesity in mice and increase their ability to deal with increased blood glucose levels.
A detailed study was conducted by the BYU research team to explore what was happening on the cellular level. The BYU research team comprised of both graduate and undergraduate students in Jeffery Tessem's lab and the labs of Ben Bikman and Jason Hansen, BYU professors of physiology and developmental biology. The team specifically focused on the beta cell and found that a cocoa compound called epicatechin monomers enhanced beta cells' ability to secrete insulin. Epicatechin is abundant in dark chocolate. One gram of cocoa powder contains 4.6 mg of epicatechin and 2.2 mg of catechin.
Epicatechin monomers protect the beta cells and increase their ability to deal with oxidative stress. It makes the mitochondria in the beta cells stronger, which produces more ATP (adenosine triphosphate). ATP is the cell's energy source, which results in more insulin being released.
Over the past decade, numerous studies have been conducted on similar compounds. But, until now, none of the studies have been able to pinpoint which cocoa compound is the most beneficial and how it brings about any benefit. The current study has shown that epicatechin monomers, the smallest of the cocoa compounds are the most effective.
"These results will help us get closer to using these compounds more effectively in foods or supplements to maintain normal blood glucose control and potentially even delay or prevent the onset of type-2 diabetes," said study co-author Andrew Neilson, assistant professor of food science at Virginia Tech.
"You probably have to eat a lot of cocoa, and you probably don't want it to have a lot of sugar in it. It's the compound in cocoa you're after," said study author Tessem, assistant professor of nutrition, dietetics and food science at BYU.
The research team is looking for ways to take the epicatechin compound out of cocoa, make more of it and then use it as a potential treatment for current diabetes patients. The study was funded by the Diabetes Action Research and Education Foundation and the American Diabetes Association.
The findings of the study are published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry.
A study published in the European Journal of Nutrition found that cocoa reduced the risk of obesity-related inflammation and type 2 diabetes. Cocoa improved diabetes risk indicators including lower plasma insulin and reduced liver triglycerides. Another study published in the Molecular Nutrition & Food Research found that epicatechin, which is the main flavonol in cocoa improved insulin levels and helped people manage diabetes.
- Thomas J. Rowley, Benjamin F. Bitner, Jason D. Ray, Daniel R. Lathen, Andrew T. Smithson, Blake W. Dallon, Chase J. Plowman, Benjamin T. Bikman, Jason M. Hansen, Melanie R. Dorenkott, Katheryn M. Goodrich, Liyun Ye, Sean F. O'Keefe, Andrew P. Neilson, Jeffery S. Tessem. Monomeric cocoa catechins enhance β-cell function by increasing mitochondrial respiration. The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry,(2017); DOI: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2017.07.015