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Enriched Cocoa Improves Blood Flow in Diabetics
Date:5/27/2008

Natural compounds called flavanols may be responsible for the benefit, study says

TUESDAY, May 27 (HealthDay News) -- All the talk about chocolate being good for your health is starting to get serious. Mars Inc., of chocolate bar fame, has established a scientific division.

And a group of researchers, some in Germany, others with the new Mars division known as Symbioscience, has just published a report showing that an enriched hot cocoa beverage can improve blood flow in people with type 2 diabetes.

"The study is the first of its kind in terms of its rigor, as well as the population studied," said Harold Schmitz, chief science officer of Mars. "Diabetics treated as well as they could be treated with pharmaceutical intervention did see, on average, a 30 percent improvement in vascular function."

The study, published in the June 3 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, had 41 adults with type 2 diabetes drink cocoa enriched with flavanols, which are natural compounds found in some fruits and vegetables and in chocolate -- especially the dark kind. Flavanols are believed to improve blood flow by increasing the production of nitric oxide, which causes arteries to relax.

After an initial trial of cocoa containing various amounts of flavanols, the participants were assigned to drink cocoa with either 321 milligrams or 25 milligrams of flavanols per serving three times a day for 30 days. The researchers then tested the participants for "flow-mediated dilation," the ability of the arteries to expand in response to the body's demand for more blood and oxygen.

Before the study began, the brachial artery in the upper arms of the participants expanded only 3.3 percent on average. After 30 days of the high-flavanol cocoa, the expansion was 5.8 percent after the beverage was drunk. No increase was seen in the people who consumed low-flavanol cocoa.

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