Diabetes study links cocoa flavanols with improved blood flow

North America/Chocolate

Diabetes study links cocoa flavanols with improved blood flow
Key facts
  • 30% improvement across 30 day trial
  • Mars Incorporated has developed and patented a process called Cocoapro®.
  • For more than fifteen years, Mars has supported research in cocoa flavanols.

Cocoa pod

A report published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology this month suggests that cocoa flavanols, which are naturally occurring plant compounds, may provide healthful benefits to people with Type 2 Diabetes.

The study concluded that the daily consumption of a beverage rich in cocoa flavanols can positively impact blood vessel dysfunction. Study participants who regularly drank a beverage rich in cocoa flavanols, made using the Mars, Incorporated Cocoapro® process, experienced a 30 percent improvement in measured vessel function at the completion of a 30-day trial.

This is the first time a dietary intervention has been shown to lead to such dramatic improvements in vessel function in a diabetic population. The research was carried out by a collaborative group of international scientists from the University Hospital RWTH in Aachen, Germany, the University of California, Davis, and Mars, Incorporated. Mars scientists Hagen Schroeter, a study co-author, and Catherine Kwik-Uribe took part in leading the research.

Poor blood vessel function develops in the early stages of cardiovascular diseases such as atherosclerosis. These vascular impairments can eventually lead to heart disease and stroke, the cause of death for two-thirds of those who suffer from diabetes. But even adults who consistently manage the disease and who are medically treated often continue to experience vascular dysfunction. This has lead scientists to search for novel medical or nutritional options to improve the health and quality of life for people with diabetes. Fundamentally, healthy circulation helps support a healthy body.

The promising results of this study are significant, as diabetes has become a global public health concern in light of increasing rates of obesity and diabetes in children. Additional research in the area may lead to the pursuit of flavanol-based applications that could delay the complications associated with poor blood vessel function and diabetes. These complications include blindness, kidney failure and heart disease.

Mars Chief Science Officer Harold Schmitz, PhD, said that “if a dietary intervention with cocoa flavanols can produce such profound, sustained improvements in vascular function…, the implications with regard to health and quality of life could be remarkable.”

Found naturally in cocoa beans, cocoa flavanols are compounds similar to those found in red wine and green tea. Previously published studies have shown that the consumption of these flavanols can improve blood vessel function and even reduce the tendency of blood clots to form. Such results suggest that the inclusion of cocoa flavanols in the diet may have profound implications for cardiovascular health.

While traditional cocoa processing techniques often destroy cocoa flavanols, Mars Incorporated has developed and patented a process called Cocoapro® that retains the benefits of these compounds. The beverage specially made for this study contains Cocoapro® cocoa, but is not available on the market. Mars does, however, offer consumers other products that apply the Cocoapro® process, although at a reduced level of cocoa flavanols than that used in this study.

For more than fifteen years, Mars has supported research in cocoa flavanols and worked in collaboration with top research institutions around the world. This commitment to research is evidenced by more than 100 peer-reviewed research publications and more than 80 patents held by Mars.

Source: Balzer J, Rassaf T, Heiss C, Kleinbongard P, Lauer T, Merx M, Heussen N, Gross HB, Keen CL, Schroeter H, Kelm M. Sustained benefits in vascular function through flavanol-containing cocoa in medicated diabetic patients: A double-masked, randomized, controlled trial. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 2008.

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