Compounds found in cocoa could help the body to produce insulin

by Barbara Hewitt on August 31, 2017

Certain compounds found in cocoa can actually help the body release more insulin and respond to increased blood glucose better, new research has found.

Scientists in the United States believe that it could help people with diabetes to manage their condition as the compound helps cells to release more insulin.


But they say it does not mean going out and eating lots of chocolate. ‘You probably have to eat a lot of cocoa, and you probably don’t want it to have a lot of sugar in it. It’s the compound in cocoa that is effective,’ said study author Jeffery Tessem, assistant professor of nutrition, dietetics and food science at the Brigham Young University in Utah.

The research found that beta cells, which produce insulin in the pancreas, work better and remain stronger with an increased presence of epicatechin monomers, compounds found naturally in cocoa.

The team of researchers fed the cocoa compound to animals on a high fat diet and found that it could decrease the level of obesity in the animals and would increase their ability to deal with increased blood glucose levels.

They then looked at what was happening on the cellular level, specifically, the beta cell level and discovered that epicatechin monomers enhanced beta cells’ ability to secrete insulin.

‘What happens is it’s protecting the cells, it’s increasing their ability to deal with oxidative stress. The epicatechin monomers are making the mitochondria in the beta cells stronger, which produces more ATP, a cell’s energy source, which then results in more insulin being released,’ Tessem explained.

While there has been a lot of research on similar compounds over the past decade, no one has been able to pinpoint which ones are the most beneficial or how exactly they bring about any benefit until now. This research shows the epicatechin monomers, the smallest of the compounds, are the most effective.

‘These results will help us get closer to using these compounds more effectively in foods or supplements to maintain normal blood glucose control and potentially even delay or prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes,’ said study co-author Andrew Neilson, assistant professor of food science at Virginia Tech.

But rather than stocking up on chocolate bars, researchers believe the starting point is to look for ways to take the compound out of cocoa, make more of it and then use it as a potential treatment for current diabetes patients.



The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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