Dark Chocolate Is Good For Diabetics – Oh Really?

October 20, 2010 by  
Filed under Food & Nutrition, Health, Strange But True

You may have seen a similar headline that in your daily newspaper this week (without the boom really of course) and it relates to results from a study by a group of researchers from the University of Hull and the Hull York Medical School.

I never thought I would be the one to try and dissuade anyone from eating chocolate, but there are some serious drawbacks to my mind with this research.

The study reports that dark chocolate has significant health benefits for people with Type 2 diabetes as HDL (high density lipoprotein) or ‘good’ cholesterol is improved and overall cholesterol balance is enhanced when patients consume 45g of dark chocolate each day over 16 weeks.

The patients were given 85% cocoa solids or a placebo which contained no cocoa solids but was dyed the same colour as the dark chocolate. No mention is made of how the poor group, placebo fared, rather than having to consume something that sounds quite unpleasant.

Steve Atkin, Professor of Diabetes and Endocrinology, who led the study says: “People with Type 2 diabetes are twice as likely to develop cardiovascular disease and since one of the main contributory factors to heart disease is a low level of HDL or ‘good’ cholesterol, the findings that dark chocolate can improve this, means the results of this study are hugely significant.”

Hmm, I agree with the first part of the sentence but not at all convinced about his conclusion. He goes on to say “Chocolate with a high cocoa content should be included in the diet of individuals with Type 2 diabetes as part of a sensible, balanced approach to diet and lifestyle. This study demonstrates that it can offer a potential reduction in cardiovascular risk without detrimental risks on weight, insulin resistance or glycaemic control.”

I do wonder about doctors I do really — however as he is a professor perhaps he is slightly different — but firstly there is rarely such a thing as a sensible approach chocolate intake for many people and secondly I do not see how a chocolate bar does not have a detrimental risk for weight or glycaemic control.

I’m certainly no expert, but Dr. Iain Frame, Director of Research at leading health charity Diabetes UK, is and takes the same view and he should know what he’s talking about. This was his response to that piece of research:

“On no account should people take away the message from this study, conducted in only 12 people, that eating even a small amount of dark chocolate is going to help reduce their cholesterol levels. The tiny health benefit of this compound found in cocoa-rich chocolate would be hugely outweighed by the fat and sugar content. The design of the study is also somewhat unrealistic as they asked participants to eat only around half the size of a normal, dark chocolate bar every day for eight weeks.

That is something that I can agree with, but the really critical element for me in this research is that yet again it is being paraded as a result on an incredibly tiny sample. 12 people might make up a jury but they do not weigh very heavily for me against the 3 million diabetics estimated in the UK.
This research is on far too small scale to draw such a huge and potentially damaging conclusion from and although there certainly might be some benefit in investigating further. I will let Dr. Iain Frame, of Diabetes UK, have the last word. “It would, however, be interesting to see if further research could find a way of testing whether polyphenols could be added to foods which weren’t high in sugar and saturated fat such as chocolate.”

Until then by all means each chocolate if you are diabetic, but very little and not very often would be my advice and if you would like further information on diabetes please visit www.diabetesuk.org

Why low cholesterol is not always a good thing

I know that in the media there is a lot of emphasis placed on the dangers of high cholesterol, however what many people fail to realise is that cholesterol is essential for your health. It’s present in every single cell in your body where it helps to produce cell membranes, hormones, vitamin D and bile acids to help you digest fat.

Cholesterol also helps in the formation of your memories and is vital for neurological function, and now scientists have discovered that there is one specific area where having low levels of one type of cholesterol has been linked to memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease.

Scientists studied more than 3,500 civil servants to investigate how levels of HDL or “good” cholesterol were associated with memory. HDL cholesterol can influence the formation of the beta-amyloid “plaques” that are a distinctive feature in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. Higher levels of HDL are also believed to protect against damage to blood supply caused by the narrowing of the arteries.

After the five-year study period, the researchers found that people with low levels of HDL were 53% more likely to suffer memory loss than people with the highest levels of HDL. Those with impaired memory are at an increased risk of developing dementia later in life, and that is not the only area where low cholesterol levels can cause you health problems.

The Risks of Low Cholesterol

Other risks related to neurological function are depression, suicidal tendencies and may lead to violent behaviour and aggression. Cholesterol levels that are too low can also increase your risk of cancer and Parkinson’s disease so trying to reduce your cholesterol to unreasonably low levels is doing your long-term health no favours.

Why do cholesterol levels rise?

High cholesterol has become such a hot topic that many people don’t realise that it is not a disease in itself. It is actually a perfectly normal response when something has gone wrong and your body needs to make new, healthy cells. Because cholesterol is produced whenever your cells become damaged, it will show as high cholesterol levels, but if you have a lot of damaged cells, you’re also going to have a lot of cholesterol in your bloodstream. This is a good thing, because it means your cells are being repaired.

Instead of just trying to reduce the high cholesterol, it makes more sense to search for what’s causing the damage in the first place, rather than moving straight on to cholesterol-lowering drugs.

One of the most common causes of high cholesterol is inflammation, and that can be brought on by a number of factors, including:

** Too many processed foods
** Smoking
** Not enough exercise
** Emotional stress

Healthy cholesterol levels are essential to keep your cells functioning at their best, and all of those risk factors above are within your control so that might be the place to start. If stress is the issue, have a look at the website for my book on How To Cope Successfully With Stress at www.sortingstressout.com

Cholesterol and Exercise – getting it right

October 27, 2007 by  
Filed under Fitness & Sport, Health, Lifestyle

Being recommended to take more exercise is usually what happens if you talk to your doctor about lowering your cholesterol levels. However, what they may not tell you is that what makes the difference is not how hard you exercise, but how long you do it for. A Japanese study has shown that working out extra hard has no effect on cholesterol, but exercising for at least 40 minutes several times a week raised the levels of HDL (beneficial cholesterol) by 2.53 points. It’s particularly important for women as for each point the HDL level increases means that our risk of heart disease gets reduced by 3 per cent. And don’t think 35 or 39 minutes will do, apparently it takes a full 40 minutes to activate an enzyme called LPL, which helps raise HDL levels. Anyone for a long walk?