Sounds like the kind of job dreams are made of but it’s entirely real. Researchers at the University of East Anglia (UEA) are recruiting as many as 150 postmenopausal women with type 2 diabetes to eat specially formulated chocolate every day for a year to evaluate any health benefits the tricked-out chocolates may provide. The chocolates for the study are to be laced with added flavonoids in an effort to determine if the flavonoids minimize the high risk of heart disease associated with diabetes.
Foods high in flavonoids are known to be healthier than other foods that contain less. Cocoa is rich in the flavonoid epicatechin but much of the flavonoid is depleted during traditional processing methods. The research team, led by Professor Aedin Cassidy, has contracted an up-scale Belgian chocolatier to produce a chocolate bar containing 3.5 times more flavonoids than even the darkest chocolates sold on the open market.
The darker the chocolate, the more flavonoids it contains but the chocolates for the study will have the added benefit of soy, which is also very high in flavonoid content. A 50-gram bar of chocolate contains 15 grams of fat and over 200 calories, both risky endeavors for diabetics. To minimize risk, study participants will be thoroughly screened beforehand and five checks for heart disease will be conducted periodically throughout the study. The participants will also keep food diaries during the study period.
Study participants will be divided into two groups, one getting the flavonoid-laced version and one getting commercial chocolate. Special attention has been paid to sweeteners in the chocolates since it cannot be avoided. Flavonoids, like unsweetened cocoa, are very bitter and caramel flavoring will help offset the bitterness while minimizing the sugar content required.
All women in the study will be postmenopausal, have type 2 diabetes, and must have been taking a cholesterol-lowering statin drug for more than a year. The chocolates, 30 grams each, are to be eaten every day as a replacement for, not in addition to, any other snacks or treats the ladies typically eat. Careful attention will be paid to the study participants’ weight, as no weight gain is also a goal of the study.
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