Health Benefits of Cocoa and Coffee

by Mark Benson on March 7, 2012

Cocoa and coffee have favorable effects

A recent study made in the Mount Sinai School of Medicine found that decaffeinated coffee helps improve brain energy metabolism often linked to Type 2 diabetes. This is one brain dysfunction that has also been related to dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders.

The research group was headed by Giulio Maria Pasinetti, MD, PhD and current Professor of Neurology and Psychiatry at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. The study explored how a diet supplemented with decaffeinated coffee for individuals without diabetes can assist in improving insulin resistance and glucose use in laboratory mice. These mice have been induced to develop Type 2 diabetes and the supplement was fed to the mice for five months. Afterwards, the researchers evaluated the genetic response of the brain in the mice.

The researchers found that the brain was more effective in metabolizing glucose and utilize it for energy in brain cells. It has been found that glucose utilization in the brain was more prevalent in individuals suffering from Type 2 diabetes and this leads to neurocognitive issues.

According to Dr. Pasinetti, “Impaired energy metabolism in the brain is known to be tightly correlated with cognitive decline during aging and in subjects at high risk for developing neurodegenerative disorders. This is the first evidence showing the potential benefits of decaffeinated coffee preparations for both preventing and treating cognitive decline caused by Type 2 diabetes, aging and/or neurodegenerative disorders.”

Coffee intake is not recommended for everybody because it is associated with cardiovascular health risks like increased levels of blood cholesterol and blood pressure that can lead to risks for heart disease, stroke and premature death. The negative effects have been attributed to high caffeine content in coffee but these findings are clear evidence that non-caffeine components in coffee preparations give health benefits to mice. The study hopes to find the preventive nature of decaffeinated coffee to make a health supplement helpful for people.

Cocoa also provided another healthy breakthrough in a small clinical trial conducted by researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine and the Veteran’s Affairs San Diego Healthcare System.

The study found that individuals with advanced heart failure and Type 2 diabetes had improved mitochondrial structures after three months of treatment with cocoa enriched with epicatechin. Epicatechin is a flavonoid often found in dark chocolate.

Mitochondria are cellular structures that are responsible for the energy production in cells and these cellular powerhouses become dysfunctional resulting from both Type 2 diabetes, heart failure and abnormalities in skeletal musculature development.

The trial participants consumed dark chocolate bars and beverage with total epicatechin content of 100 mg per day. The researchers looked into the mitochondrial volume as well as proliferation of cristae, internal compartments in the mitochondria that assist in the efficient functioning of the mitochondria.

According to Francisco J. Villareal, MD, PhD at the UC San Diego’s Department of Medicine’s Division of Cardiology, “The cristae had been severely damaged and decreased in quantity in these patients. After three months, we saw recovery – cristae numbers back toward normal levels and increases in several molecular indicators involved in new mitochondria production.”

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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