London, April 28 : One hundred and fifty women will be eating chocolate every day for a year, as part of a research study into the health benefits of cocoa.
Researchers at the University of East Anglia are studying whether compounds in chocolate can cut the risk of heart disease in women with type 2 diabetes.
Heart disease is the most common cause of death in patients with diabetes.
Doctors have cautioned that the general population, and especially diabetics should not start eating large quantities of chocolate unsupervised, as it also contains lots of sugar and fat, which worsen diabetes and promote weight gain.
Cocoa, the main ingredient of chocolate, is a rich source of compounds called flavonoids, which have been shown to decrease risk factors for heart disease.
Generally the process of making chocolate from cocoa destroys the majority of these compounds.
However, now a Belgian chocolatier has developed a specially formulated chocolate bar for this study with extra flavonoids and added soy, which is also a rich source of the chemicals.
Once selected, the women, who must all have been through the menopause, will eat 27 grams of the special chocolate each day as well as carrying on with their normal cholesterol lowering drugs, called statins.
"Despite postmenopausal women being at a similar risk to men for developing cardiovascular disease, to date they are under-represented in clinical trials," the Telegraph quoted Prof Aedin Cassidy, the lead researcher and Professor of Diet and Health at the University of East Anglia, as saying.
"We hope to show that adding flavonoids to their diets will provide additional protection from heart disease and give women the opportunity to take more control over reducing their risk of heart disease in the future," Cassidy added.
Dr Ketan Dhatariya, one of the researchers and a consultant in diabetes at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital said: "The hypothesis of this exciting study is that flavonoids, in this case compounds found in cocoa and soy, may improve the level of protection against heart disease over and above that provided by conventional drugs."
"If the trial confirms this, it could have a far-reaching impact on the advice we give to postmenopausal women who have type 2 diabetes," he added.
Dr Iain Frame, Director of Research at leading health charity Diabetes UK, said: "We certainly don't advise people to start eating a lot of chocolate as it's very high in sugar and fat. We would always recommend that people with diabetes eat a diet low in fat, salt and sugar with plenty of fruit and vegetables."