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article imageCocoa could be a natural way to curb obesity related disease

By Kathleen Blanchard     Jun 13, 2013 in Health
If you have a bit of a sweet tooth but have been staying away from chocolate temptations, you’ll be happy to know cocoa has a new health surprise. Recent findings show cocoa appears to fight chronic inflammation that can lead to type-2 diabetes and more
If you’re overweight or been told you have high blood pressure or high cholesterol and trying to lower your health risk factors, drinking cocoa or eating chocolate made from cocoa could be good medicine.
Joshua Lambert, associate professor of food science at Penn State University, and his team studied obese mice to find out the effect cocoa had on markers of inflammation that can lead to diabetes and fatty liver disease.
Lambert said the effect of cocoa on controlling inflammation was surprising. Mice fed a high-fat diet that were given a cocoa powder supplement experienced a ‘dramatic’ reduction in inflammation as well as fatty liver disease that can eventually lead to cirrhosis.
He also said cocoa did not have a big effect on body weight.
Several markers of inflammation were the same in obese mice given a cocoa powder supplement but fed a high-fat diet as mice that were not overweight. There was also a slight drop in the rate that cocoa-fed mice gained weight.
"Most obesity researchers tend to steer clear of chocolate because it is high in fat, high in sugar and is usually considered an indulgence," Lambert said. "However, cocoa powder is low in fat and low in sugar. We looked at cocoa because it contains a lot of polyphenolic compounds, so it is analogous to things like green tea and wine, which researchers have been studying for some of their health benefits."
The researchers aren’t sure how cocoa decreases inflammation. One recent theory is that fat cells launch an immune attack on the body that leads to fatty liver disease and diabetes. Cocoa might halt precursors to inflammation, nipping the process before it begins.
Another theory is that cocoa improves function in the gut where beneficial immune boosting bacteria reside. Excess fat in the diet is suspected to contribute to endotoxin release into the blood stream that promotes inflammation.
The study authors also write that cocoa might modulate absorption of dietary fat to keep cells functioning properly.
Dark chocolate made from cocoa also makes us feel good. Cocoa and chocolate health benefits can be found by choosing unprocessed products.
Past studies show cocoa:
• Lowers blood pressure and cholesterol
• Keeps blood vessels healthy; potentially lowering risk of cardiovascular disease
• Decreases insulin resistance that can help thwart type 2 diabetes
The research, published in the European Journal of Nutrition, isn't the first to suggest cocoa might be considered a healthy addition to the diet. The new finding shows cocoa could help stop inflammation leading to type-2 diabetes, fatty liver and other diseases. Scientists are planning more studies on humans to find out how cocoa might help prevent disease.
More about Cocoa, Study, Penn state, inflammation, Obesity
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