Diabetes and chocolate: Good News for Valentine’s Day?

Amy Tenderich, Founder and Editor, DiabetesMine

Today’s guest blog is by Amy Tenderich, founder and editor of Diabetes Mine,  where this article was originally posted  and community manager at  Diabetic Connect.

Amy is also the co-author, with Joslin’s Richard Jackson, MD, of the popular diabetes patient guide Know Your Numbers, Outlive Your Diabetes — Five Essential Health Factors You Can Master to Enjoy a Long and Healthy Life, which is available in the Joslin Bookstore.

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Let’s stop pretending that diabetics don’t eat chocolate. Come on, it’s right there on the Hierarchy of Human Needs, somewhere between Safety and Love. But it’s a complex mix of fat and sugar, so dosing for it takes some training.

Here we stand right before Valentine’s Day, with sweethearts everywhere tying bows on bundles of forbidden treats, so this is a good time to share strategies. Usually, I inject 20 to 30 minutes after eating chocolate, since it absorbs slowly. This works pretty well – especially when I read carefully the carb count on the label in relation to the actual amount of chocolate I am gobbling up.

My CDE says: “Everyone is different, but the high fat content of chocolate slows the absorption of the carbs, so the shot after makes sense. If what you are doing works, keep it up.” Hooray!

Lest you begin to cringe with guilt at the very thought, be aware that chocolate is not all bad for you. Chocolate contains flavonoids, or plant-based compounds, that are medically proven to promote heart health. Yes, Science Daily has documented at least 66 studies confirming it!

Notably for us diabetics, one study found that a chocolate bar had no greater effect on blood sugar than another “more traditionally recommended snack,” when calories are equal. Researchers attribute this to the slow absorption of sugar when eaten with fat. (Which we knew. Thanks!).

A one-ounce chocolate bar has been found to contain about the same amount of phenolic acid (a phytochemical) as a five-ounce glass of red wine. Laboratory evidence now suggests that these phenolic substances can act as antioxidants, which may offer some protection from both heart disease and cancer. Cheers!

More chocolate bennies

Researchers in Italy seem to have heard my prayers. They have uncovered further evidence that chocolate promotes good health — even better, that eating dark chocolate improves regularly insulin response. Results published in the March 2005 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition show that study participants’ blood pressure decreased and the participants showed improvements in insulin sensitivity – meaning they were better able to metabolize glucose (sugar). Fab!

Now for the disclaimers: The University of L’Aquila, Italy, study consisted of just 15 participants – and these were all healthy people, e.g. no diabetics on board.

Diabetes in Control, a site for health-care professionals, also warns that it is dark chocolate – not white chocolate – that contains the health-promoting flavanols and procyanidins. I can live with that. They also state that the findings are no excuse to gorge on chocolate.

Okay, okay, duly noted. But it sure is nice to know that that some good things are also good for you!

Perhaps the most interesting tidbit came from the World Cocoa Foundation, whose mission is “encouraging sustainable, responsible cocoa growing.” The Foundation, which has been studying the health benefits of chocolate for many years, has developed a method to determine the amount and type of flavanols found in various foods. The Foundation has also built a database to store this information, which features a special table comparing different cocoas and chocolates.

Happily for Mars, Inc., their CocoaVia® Bar, Dove® Dark Chocolate and Cocoapro® cocoa powder rank apparently much higher in flavanol content than most competitors. That, they state, is because they’re using “patented and proprietary methods of processing cocoa beans to retain as much of their naturally occurring flavanols as possible.” Really!

More fascinating chocolate-health trivia awaits you at www.chocolateinfo.comwww.cocoapro.com. and www.cocoapro.com.

For more information:

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3 Responses to Diabetes and chocolate: Good News for Valentine’s Day?

  1. Rite Tyme says:

    I say one day of sugary sweetness is alright for us diabetics… it is Valentine’s after all. Some people need to cure their depression with a little brown love :)

  2. Dolores Burley says:

    This is great news about chocolate. The article says to take a shot after chocolate. I am not on insulin. I take 500 mg, two tablets a day. What do I do in this case?

    • The carbs in the chocolate should be counted as with any other carbohydrate food and fit into your meal plan. If you don’t take insulin you don’t have to do anything differently; take your medicine as you normally would. If you keep the amounts of chocolate limited, it shouldn’t play too much havoc with weight control either.

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