A steaming hot mug of diabetes prevention

It's the fourth of July and summer is now officially in full swing. And if it's anywhere near as hot where you are as it is here, I'm willing to bet the last thing on your mind today is a hot steaming mug of hot cocoa.

But some new research on the effects of cocoa for diabetes prevention might change that fast.

This isn't the first time I've brought you good news about cocoa, the primary ingredient in chocolate. In fact, it was just last year around this same time that I shared the inside scoop on an Australian study that found that dark chocolate may be able to lower blood pressure and cholesterol.

Now a new University of Pennsylvania study to determine if it’s possible to use cocoa for diabetes prevention published in the European Journal of Nutrition, has added another line to cocoa's already impressive resume. More on that promotion in just a moment, but first let's talk inflammation...the kind brought on by obesity.

Inflammation is linked to disease

I certainly don't need to tell you obesity is bad for your health. But what you may not know is it's not just hauling around that spare tire that's a problem. It's what those pounds lead to... inflammation-linked diseases... that are the real concern.

Those inflammation-related illnesses can include everything from heart disease to diabetes. And that's where a steaming hot mug of disease prevention could come to the rescue.

Researchers fed mice a high-fat diet, which with the wrong kinds of fats is a real recipe for disaster. But the mice had a guardian angel in the form of a delicious chocolaty treat along for the ride. You see, the researchers also slipped the rodents some cocoa with their high-fat meals.

And the effects that the cocoa had on those rotund rodents were as astounding as they were unexpected.

Diabetes risk dropped dramatically

During a 10-week window the mice received what would equal only about 10 tablespoons of cocoa powder... or five cups of hot cocoa... on a human scale. But that relatively small amount of cocoa had a big impact.

Researchers were expecting to see some effect on body weight, and while there was some it was small. But much to the researchers surprise, when the cocoa-supplemented mice were compared to control mice that got the high-fat diet alone, they observed a dramatic drop in obesity-related inflammation and related fatty liver disease.

Not only that, the mice that got both the high-fat diet and the cocoa supplements also saw a significant reduction in signs of diabetes, including 27-percent lower plasma insulin levels... a reduction that put them on par with a group of mice that were fed a low-fat diet.

In other words, the high-fat eaters essentially had as low of a diabetes risk as the low-fat mice.

The good news didn't stop there for the cocoa-eaters, either. Their liver triglycerides... a sign of fatty-liver disease and related to inflammation and diabetes... didn't just improve, they plummeted by more than 32 percent.

More research is needed of course, but these latest findings re-confirm what other studies have already concluded... cocoa is good for diabetes prevention and for your health. And while adding cocoa to a poor diet isn't, of course, going to magically make you healthy, it looks like it can help point you in the right direction.

Now with the mercury rising, and barbecues and fireworks on the menu for tonight, I'm certainly not expecting you to break out the cocoa powder and serve up some hot cocoa. Besides, with all the added sugar a steaming mug of hot cocoa is really not going to be the best way to up your levels.

Luckily cocoa can be found in a number of quality supplements, and pure chocolate-bean products known as nibs are easy to find in health food stores and online. And, hey, if you want to nibble on an occasional piece of dark chocolate, or sip on a delicious cup of cocoa, declare your independence and go right ahead!