Could a visit to the doctor be pleasant for once? You could put "chocolate" on the doctor's prescription. According to some studies, it is possible. Researchers suggest that consuming a little chocolate every day can reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease.
Historically, chocolate has been perceived as a food that should be enjoyed only sporadically, given its high fat and sugar content. Its excessive consumption can lead to health problems such as cavities and obesity. However, the latest studies in this area are increasingly suggesting that moderate and regular consumption of chocolate can produce significant health benefits, particularly when it comes to dark chocolate. Dark chocolate has the highest cocoa content, which means it has the highest levels of antioxidants that can prevent some forms of cell damage.
In 2016, researchers from the Department of Population Health at the Luxembourg Institute of Health (LIH) published an interesting study in the British Journal of Nutrition.
In this specific study, the researchers analyzed the chocolate consumption of 1,153 people who were also within a cardiovascular risk observation group. A food frequency survey including information on chocolate intake was conducted on these patients, in order to investigate whether chocolate intake is associated with insulin resistance - where the body's cells do not respond effectively to insulin, increasing the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. They also evaluated the impact of chocolate consumption on liver enzyme levels, which is a measure of liver function.
Daily consumption of chocolate reduces insulin resistance
The researchers found that around 80% percent of the study participants consumed chocolate, with an average consumption of 24.8 grams per day.
Compared with participants who did not eat chocolate every day, they found a reduction in insulin resistance and an improvement in liver enzyme levels. The effect was greater the greater the consumption of chocolate.
The results were equally valid for different groups of participants of different age, sex, education, lifestyle, or other dietary factors. Intake of tea and coffee, rich in polyphenol antioxidants, was also found to increase the benefits of chocolate in relation to cardiometabolic risk (a person's likelihood of developing diabetes, heart disease, or stroke).
Could dark chocolate be included in the dietary recommendations of doctors?
These findings suggest that consuming chocolate may reduce the risk of developing cardiometabolic disorders by improving liver enzyme levels and protecting against insulin resistance. Therefore, cocoa and cocoa-derived products may represent an additional dietary recommendation to improve cardiometabolic health.
Possible applications of this knowledge are the recommendations of health professionals to encourage individuals to consume a wide variety of foods rich in phytochemicals, which may include dark chocolate in moderate amounts. However, the researchers note that it is important to distinguish the difference between chocolate that contains natural cocoa and processed chocolate, since the latter is much higher in calories.
In this sense, physical activity, diet and other lifestyle factors must be carefully balanced to avoid weight gain that can be harmful in the long term.
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