Here' s some sweet news for chocolate lovers: Eating high levels of flavonoids including anthocyanins and other compounds — found in chocolate, as well as berries, wine, and tea — offers protection from Type 2 diabetes, new research shows.
According to a study out of the University of East Anglia and King's College London, medical investigators found that people who eat diets rich in such foods have lower insulin resistance and better blood glucose regulation, in addition to reduced inflammation — associated with diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.
The study, published in the Journal of Nutrition, involved nearly 2,000 people.
Lead researcher Aedin Cassidy from UEA's Norwich Medical School said the study is one of the largest to show the health benefits of chocolate and other flavonoid-rich foods.
"Our research looked at the benefits of eating certain sub-groups of flavanoids. We focused on flavones, which are found in herbs and vegetables such as parsley, thyme, and celery, and anthocyanins, found in berries, red grapes, wine and other red or blue-colored fruits and vegetables," she said.
"This is one of the first large-scale human studies to look at how these powerful bioactive compounds might reduce the risk of diabetes. Laboratory studies have shown these types of foods might modulate blood glucose regulation — affecting the risk of Type 2 diabetes. But until now little has been know about how habitual intakes might affect insulin resistance, blood glucose regulation and inflammation in humans."
Based on surveys and blood tests of the 2,000 study participants, Cassidy and her team determined those who ate the most anthocyanins were least likely to suffer chronic inflammation and more likely to have signs of healthy metabolic processes.
"What we don't yet know is exactly how much of these compounds are necessary to potentially reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes," she added.
Tim Spector, a co-research collaborator from King's College London, said: "This is an exciting finding that shows that some components of foods that we consider unhealthy like chocolate or wine may contain some beneficial substances. If we can start to identify and separate these substances we can potentially improve healthy eating. There are many reasons including genetics why people prefer certain foods so we should be cautious until we test them properly in randomized trials and in people developing early diabetes."
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