It wasn't a perfect study, she added. "The study would have been better if they had tested the individual flavanols they suggest are responsible for the effect separately," van Praag said.
Angela Kurtz, a nutritionist at New York University Medical Center, also had some mild criticism of the study, centering on the caloric content of cocoa. "Those 170 extra calories in the cocoa would promote obesity," she said. "You would have to omit some other calorie sources that match that amount to prevent weight gain."
Still, Kurtz said, "The bottom line is that diabetics who have a poor vascular system can benefit from something that gives pleasure at the same time it helps health. Cocoa increases the amount of endorphins, the feel-good chemicals."
Schmitz said more research is needed to substantiate the findings. "Clearly, the next step is a long study with enough subjects to clearly demonstrate there is a benefit of flavanol-enriched beverages for diabetics," he said.
Mars has been sponsoring research on the health benefits of chocolate products for years, Schmitz said. "We've published a lot of peer-reviewed papers, well over 100," he said.
The commercial possibilities aren't being overlooked, Schmitz said. "We have a number of products in development," he said. "Symbiosciences has been working on some. I'm not at liberty to discuss what is in our pipeline."
For more on the health benefits of chocolate, visit the University of Michigan.
SOURCES: Harold Schmitz, Ph.D., chief science officer, Mars Inc., McLean
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