Dark Chocolate and Diabetes: The Benefits of This Tasty Snack

DIABETES CARE|Aug.11, 2017

Hardly a day goes by without a media source advising us to "Eat a tomato each day for better skin," "have a glass of red wine each night with dinner" — or some other dietary directive. Perhaps you've heard about the potential health benefits of dark chocolate and diabetes. But is it true?

Chocolate fans, rejoice! Yes, in fact, this snack could lower your diabetes risk according to Endocrine Abstracts. Daily consumption of dark chocolate is associated with positive effects on insulin sensitivity and blood sugar — two key factors in developing diabetes. But before you jump and start incorporating chocolate into meals, make sure you know the facts.

The Link Between Dark Chocolate and Diabetes

The secret of how dark chocolate works against diabetes lies within the sweet snack's makeup. Dark chocolate contains polyphenols, which are naturally occurring compounds that have antioxidant properties (which protect the body from damage caused by harmful molecules). Polyphenols in dark chocolate may improve insulin sensitivity, or how well insulin works in the body. This, in turn, may help control blood sugar, according to research published in Endocrine Abstracts. Such improved insulin sensitivity may delay, or even prevent, the onset of diabetes.

A study published by the journal Appetite found that people who eat chocolate, including dark chocolate, at least once a week had a lower prevalence of diabetes and were at lower risk for diabetes four to five years later. The analysis of 908 nondiabetic people and 45 people with diabetes discovered that people who ate such chocolate less than once weekly were at twice the risk of diabetes versus those who ate it more than one day per week.

But what if you already have diabetes? Well, there may be some benefits of dark chocolate consumption for you, too. Research presented by ARYA Atherosclerosis analyzed people diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes who consumed 25 grams of either dark or white chocolate for eight weeks. Those who ate dark chocolate had lower blood pressure after eight weeks than those who ate white chocolate. The dark chocolate eaters also had decreased fasting blood sugar.

The Right Dark Chocolate For You

So you're ready to buy up your supermarket's inventory of dark chocolate? Not all chocolate is created equal. Remember, it's the polyphenol-rich dark chocolate that contains antioxidants, and the higher percentage of cocoa yields better health advantages, according to Bastyr University.

Read the nutrition facts to ensure you're getting most out of the snack. Experts at Bastyr recommend choosing a dark chocolate that has at least as much fiber as sugar. Also, check if the dark chocolate has been processed with alkali (the process that makes cocoa less bitter, but it eliminates the health properties in the chocolate). Opt instead for a dark chocolate that has not been processed.

Enjoy Dark Chocolate in Moderation

Remember that consuming too much of a good thing may have negative effects. Commercial chocolate may add fat, sugar and calories to the candy. The Cedars-Sinai medical center cautions that people with diabetes shouldn't use chocolate as a way to boost low blood glucose, because the fat in chocolate prevents your glucose from rising quickly. As always, consult a medical professional, such as a physician or registered dietitian, before modifying your diet or insulin use.