Dark chocolate is different from milk chocolate. It isn't just the color or the taste. Dark chocolate is chemically different from milk chocolate, because it doesn't contain milk solids and usually doesn't have a high percentage of sugar. Because of the low sugar content, dark chocolate doesn't spike blood sugar the way other sweets and candies do, making it an acceptable as an occasional sweet for the diabetic.
Diabetes is a chronic disease that is marked by high levels of sugar in the bloodstream, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information. Insulin, a hormone secreted by the pancreas, is used to usher glucose from the bloodstream into the cells to be burned for energy. When you have diabetes your body produces too little insulin or none at all or doesn't use it correctly. This increases the amount of sugar or glucose in the bloodstream, which can lead to hypertension, stroke, heart attack, loss of eyesight, kidney damage and peripheral vascular disease.
The good news for chocolate fans is that dark chocolate has been linked to improved insulin sensitivity and reduced resistance. A study published in 2005 in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" found that dark chocolate improved insulin sensitivity in healthy study participants. The authors recommended larger studies to confirm this finding. The improvement in insulin sensitivity may help prevent the onset of diabetes, but you must also eat dark chocolate that has not undergone processing that removes the flavanoids or overeat dark chocolate, which can increase your caloric intake and lead to weight gain.
Scientists presented a review of 21 studies at the conference of the American Heart Association in 2011. They linked improved health of blood vessels and levels of good cholesterol, as well as reduced levels of bad cholesterol, to consumption of dark-chocolate cocoa They theorized that these benefits may help to prevent the onset of diabetes. The cautioned, however, that the studies were limited.
Flavonoids and Diabetes
Researchers published information in "Hypertension," the journal of the American Heart Association, in 2010, which suggested that dark chocolate could help to reduce hypertension, which affects approximately 67 percent of U.S. adults with diabetes. The studies suggested that the flavonoids in dark chocolate may be useful in both the prevention and the management of hypertension when used in moderation.
Dark chocolate does not spike blood-glucose levels as dramatically as other sweet snacks. According to the GlycemicIndex.com database, Dove dark chocolate has a glycemic index of 23. Foods with lower numbers have a reduced effect on blood sugar. In comparison, a raw apple has a glycemic index of 40 and a banana has 45.
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Diabetes
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition; "Short-Term Administration of Dark Chocolate is Followed by a Significant Increase in Insulin Sensitivity and a Decrease in Blood Pressure in Healthy Persons"; D. Grassi, C. Lippi, S. Necozione, et. al.; March 2005
- Diabetes.co.uk: Dark Chocolate Could Help Prevent Diabetes
- American Diabetes Association: Diabetes Statitistics
- Hypertension; "Does Dark chocolate Have a Role in the Prevention and Management of Hypertension?"; B. Egan, M. Laken, J. Donovan, R. Woolson; 2010
- GlycemicIndex.com: Database