Attention chocolate lovers. Here’s another good reason to indulge your chocolate addiction every day WITHOUT the guilt. Researchers have found that long-term consumption of chocolate is associated with a reduced diabetes risk.
Using data from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Cohort study, researchers followed 7,802 participants for more than 13 years. ARIC is conducted and supported by the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. Participants aged 45–64 years are drawn from households in North Carolina, Minnesota, Maryland, and Mississippi.
Participants were examined every three years and completed food frequency questions on their chocolate consumption.
The results showed that people who ate one ounce of chocolate 2-6 times per week had a 34% lower risk of diabetes compared to those who ate chocolate less than monthly. Just eating chocolate 1-4 times per month lowered diabetes risk by 13%.
But more wasn’t better. Eating chocolate more than once a day decreased diabetes risk by 18%. That’s good but only about half the benefit of eating it just 2-6 times per week. Why?
The researchers speculated that flavanols in chocolate help the body metabolize glucose. But going overboard with chocolate could increase calories and fat to such an extent that they outweigh the flavanols’ benefits in metabolizing glucose.
An earlier Japanese study had also found that long-term chocolate use was associated with a 35% lower diabetes risk in men.
Prior short-term human studies had shown that eating dark chocolate or high-flavanol cocoa every day improves insulin sensitivity.
And Australian researchers recently estimated that eating just one ounce of chocolate per day can reduce cardiovascular events, such as heart attacks and strokes, in people with metabolic syndrome, a precursor to diabetes.
In fact, it’s been suggested that chocolate’s heart health benefits give statin drugs a run for their money.
Chocolate also relieves stress and lowers blood pressure.
What kind of chocolate should you eat?
One limitation of the current study was that the participants didn’t specify what kind of chocolate they ate. In fact, the questionnaire asked how frequently they ate one ounce of “chocolate bars or pieces, such as Hershey’s, Plain M&M’s, Snickers, Reese’s.”
Those mass market chocolate junk foods are hardly the best choices. Dark chocolate is significantly richer in flavanols than other chocolates. Look for chocolate with 70% or more cacao content.
Also, for the best health benefits try to find organic, fair-trade products if possible.