by DeLois Weeks, RN PHD

Flavonoids found in certain foods, including chocolate, wine and berries, may protect against type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Flavonoids found in certain foods, including chocolate, wine and berries, may protect against type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Chocolate and Berries May Protect Against Type 2 Diabetes

Good news for chocolate and berry lovers. A study recently published in The Journal of Nutrition suggests that consuming high levels of flavonoids, found in foods such as chocolate, tea, and berries may help protect against type 2 diabetes. This is according to Investigators from Kings College London and the University of East Anglia, both in the UK. Their research findings indicate that a high intake of these dietary compounds is linked to reduced insulin resistance and improved glucose regulation.

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. It is a disorder of carbohydrate metabolism caused by insulin deficiency or insulin resistance. As a result, the body is unable to use insulin properly, which can lead to abnormal blood glucose levels. The normal range for glucose if 70- 110 mg/dL.

The research team recruited a sample of 1,997 female volunteers between the ages of 18 and 76 years from TwinsUK - the largest UK twin registry used for research into genetics, the environment and common diseases.

All women completed a food questionnaire. This estimated their total dietary flavonoid intake and their intake from six flavonoid subclasses - anthocyanins, flavanones, flavan-3-ols, polymeric flavonoids, flavonols, and flavones.

Flavonoids Reduce Insulin Resistance and Inflammation'

The study findings indicated that women who consumed high levels of anthocyanins (Anthocyanins are water-soluble vacuolar pigments that may appear red, purple, or blue depending on the pH) and flavones (colorless crystalline compounds that are the basis of a number of white or yellow plant pigments. Any of the plant pigments of which flavone is the basis. plural noun: flavones) found in foods such as berries, herbs, red grapes, and chocolate demonstrated lower insulin resistance.

Women who consumed the highest levels of flavones also had improved levels of a protein called adiponectin - a regulator of glucose levels, among other metabolic mechanisms. Furthermore, the investigators discovered that volunteers who consumed the most anthocyanins were the least likely to have chronic inflammation - a condition linked to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity and cancer.

However, the researchers note that the levels at which these compounds may protect against type 2 diabetes are not yet known.

Adding Chocolate to a Healthy Diet 'May Have Benefits'

When it comes to eating chocolate, Cassidy said it is all about eating small amounts of the right chocolate in order to see health benefits.

She noted that in clinical trials, consuming chocolate made especially for the trials, which contained 50 mg of flavonoids, "reduced blood pressure, improved blood flow and helped keep arteries healthy and flexible."

In general, dark chocolate contains more of the powerful bioactive compounds, and a small amount added to an otherwise healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables could be important for prevention or reduction of the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
— Cassidy, 2014