The Fun Way To Boost Insulin Action, Cut Insulin Resistance

Very, very good news from the University of L'Aquila in Italy: Dark chocolate, and cocoa, really are health foods, and may even be great diet foods.

It has been known for some time that cocoa is a super source of the antioxidant flavonols -- among the finest general health protectors. But it seems now that the flavonols' mechanism involves increased nitric oxide production, with all that that implies, as well as improved insulin action and reduced insulin resistance.

In a trial conducted by this Italian group, healthy subjects were given either dark chocolate bars, or placebo (white chocolate bars), for two weeks. At the end of the study period, insulin sensitivity was significantly improved with dark chocolate, and insulin resistance reduced. The authors concluded that dark chocolate improves insulin sensitivity.

The significance of this is that poor insulin sensitivity, and insulin resistance, are associated with the "metabolic syndrome X" -- that complex of metabolic derangements that is at the core of the weight and bodyfat problems of scores of millions of Americans (including many of you reading these words). Insulin resistance is associated with "apple" fat -- that stubborn abdominal fat that plagues men in particular. You can do cardio and sit-ups until the lights burn out, but as long as your metabolism is telling your abdominal fat cells to hang on to their reserves, it will be a steep uphill battle (if it is possible at all).

 That's why it is so important to lower insulin levels, increase insulin sensitivity, and abolish insulin resistance. It now looks like plain old cocoa is one of the tools for the job -- along with Alpha Lipoic Acid, Chromium, vanadium, niacin, magnesium and green tea extract.

Choose cocoa-flavored or enriched protein supplement products, and look out for high-quality cocoa extracts standardized on compounds like caffeine, theophyllline, and phenols (including flavonols). And don't use this info as an excuse to pig out on high-fat light chocolate goodies.

Grassi D, et al. Short-term administration of dark chocolate is followed by a significant increase in insulin sensitivity and a decrease in blood pressure in healthy persons. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 Mar;81(3):611-4