What if eating chocolate helped prevent and treat type 2 diabetes? It’s crazy enough to laugh off.

But here’s the thing: 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 Brigham Young University (BYU). “It’s the compound in cocoa you’re after.”

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How does it work?

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.

This new study found that beta cells work better and remain stronger with an increased presence of epicatechin monomers, compounds found naturally in cocoa.

Beta cells work better and remain stronger with an increased presence of epicatechin monomers, compounds found naturally in cocoa

The discovery

The cocoa compound was first fed to animals on a high-fat diet.

Researchers found that adding the compound helped decrease the level of obesity in the animals and would increase their ability to deal with increased blood glucose levels.

The BYU team then dissected what was happening on the cellular level – specifically, the beta cell level. That’s when they learned cocoa compounds named epicatechin monomers enhanced beta cells’ ability to secrete insulin.

“What happens is it’s protecting the cells, it’s increasing their ability to deal with oxidative stress,” Tessem said. “The epicatechin monomers are making the mitochondria in the beta cells stronger, which produces more ATP (a cell’s energy source), which then results in more insulin being released.”

But rather than stocking up on the sugar-rich chocolate bars, researchers believe the starting point is taking the compound from cocoa and using it to make a potential treatment for current diabetes patients.

In the meantime, it can’t hurt to make a sugar-free cup of hot chocolate.

Source: Brigham Young University via www.sciencedaily.com

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