What do diabetes, heart disease, and chocolate have in common? They all, in some ways, go hand-in-hand. If you have diabetes you probably know that your heart disease risk is much greater than someone who doesn’t have diabetes. Many people with diabetes even take medicine for heart disease or other heart problems to try to lower their risks. Taking medicine to prevent heart disease makes sense, but what about the chocolate?
Chocolate’s Healthy Secret
To be honest, we are not talking about just chocolate. We’re talking about a chemical found in chocolate called a “flavonoid.” Flavonoids are a kind of antioxidant, which are healthy chemicals found in many plants. Chocolate, which comes from the cocoa plant, is rich in flavonoids. Many other foods contain flavonoids, such as beans, grains, green tea, most fruits and vegetables, as well as some herbs, and spices.
So what makes them so important? New research has found that there may be a link between heart disease, diabetes, and eating foods with lots of flavonoids. In the past, research showed that eating flavonoid-rich foods did not change your diabetes risk. But new studies have found different results! For example, flavonoids are now thought to help your body’s insulin work better. One study even showed that flavonoids might help the insulin-making cells in the pancreas work harder. This could help to reduce the chances of you getting type 2 diabetes. Experts also think that flavonoids help to reduce inflammation in the body, which is a common problem in people with diabetes.
Chocolate and Your Heart
Even better news has been found in relation to heart disease. A large research study found that people who started eating more flavonoids saw good changes in their cholesterol levels. Their HDL (good cholesterol) levels went up, and their LDL (bad cholesterol) levels went down. After a year of eating more flavonoids, they had lowered their risk of heart disease. After ten years, they had a much lower risk of heart disease than people who didn’t eat a lot of flavonoids. The study found that the people who ate lots of flavonoids had much less narrowing of the blood vessels in the heart from build-up of fats and calcium. And their blood pressure was lower, too!
It is important to note that the people who took part in these studies stayed on their current medicines. This means that taking your medicine is still important, but eating flavonoid-rich food may make your heart even healthier!
Reviewed by Robert Ehrman, MD