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Could cocoa be good for the heart?

New research suggests that drinking cocoa could help prevent cardiovascular disease, one of the most common complications of diabetes caused by damaged blood vessels.

Scientists carried out a study on 41 people with stable Type 2 diabetes to gauge the effect that flavanols found in cocoa can have on blood vessel function.

Participants were randomly assigned to drink cocoa with either 321 mg of flavanols per serving or only 25 mg of flavanols per serving three times daily for 30 days. The two types of cocoa tasted and looked the same.

Improved blood vessel function

Results published in the June 3 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC) showed that participants’ blood vessel function went from severely impaired to normal.

“These are interesting findings. Flavanols are naturally occurring antioxidants found in certain fruits and vegetables, green tea, red wine and cocoa," said Pav Pank, Care Advisor at Diabetes UK.

"As indicated by this relatively small study, possible health benefits include lowering blood pressure, which could be helpful for people with diabetes, and improving circulation.

The importance of a balanced lifestyle

“Flavanols do seem to offer potential health benefits for people with diabetes but, at this stage, we don’t advise people to start drinking lots of hot chocolate as it can be high in sugar and fat. More research is needed in to the long-term effects of consuming such high amounts of flavanols.

“Eating a healthy balanced diet and taking regular physical activity remain key ways to effectively control diabetes as they help manage your weight and lower blood pressure and blood fats. Good diabetes control will help reduce the risk of serious complications such as heart disease, stroke and blindness.”

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