This Week in Health: Chocolate may prevent obesity and diabetes

Health benefits of chocolate
Chocolate to stave off diabetes and obesity?
Credit: Thinkstock

Can chocolate prevent obesity and diabetes?

Location of study: U.S.

Study subjects: Mice

Results: The positive health benefits of chocolate have been studied increasingly more in recent years, particularly its effects on heart health. The focus has mostly been on key compounds called flavanols, which are abundant in cocoa. In a recent study, researchers separated these flavanols into three main classes. They then tested the effects of these classes in mice that were fed a high-fat diet for three months. “We found that one specific class of compounds called oligomeric procyanidins had by far the best ability to prevent the onset of obesity and diabetes,” said Dr. Andrew Neilson, assistant professor in the Department of Food Science and Technology at Virginia Tech.

Significance: Neilson warns people to think twice before reaching for a chocolate bar to prevent diabetes and obesity. Chocolate has a lot of calories from fat and sugar, so consuming lots of chocolate to get these compounds is not recommended. Instead, try eating cocoa nibs, cocoa powder in low-fat, low-sugar foods and small portions of dark chocolate to get these key flavanols while minimizing added calories. According to researchers, the study’s findings have sparked interest in the potential development of cocoa that contains more oligomeric procyanidins.

Breast cancer not linked to fertility drugs

Location of study: U.S.

Study subjects: 12,000 women evaluated for infertility between 1965 and 1988

Results: A 30-year study has found that fertility drugs used to stimulate ovulation do not appear to increase overall breast cancer risk. Researchers did observe an increased risk among a small group of women who received 12 or more cycles of a drug called clomiphene. These cycles were given at dosages that are much higher than what is currently prescribed. The study also found an increased breast cancer risk in a sub-group of women who were unable to conceive after taking clomiphene and gonadtropins (another ovulation stimulator). When compared to study participants who’d never taken these drugs, these women had nearly twice the risk of developing breast cancer. Researchers say it’s difficult to determine if these increased risks were necessarily due to drug effects. It’s possible that they were caused by more resistant infertility.

Significance: The findings branch away from previous studies that have linked these types of drugs to female cancers. The concerns originally stemmed from the fact that fertility drugs increase estrogen levels, which might make women more likely to develop endometrial cancers. However, researchers say that long-term research has found no definitive link between medications for infertility and increased risk for breast, ovarian or endometrial cancers. “These types of studies are complicated to conduct because of the need to account for other predictors of cancer risk, including various causes of infertility and whether or not a woman is able to conceive,” said Dr. Louise Brinton of the National Cancer Institute.

Drinking coffee may cut risk of death from liver cirrhosis

Location of study: Singapore

Study subjects: Over 63,000 people aged 45 to 74

Results: Consuming at least two cups of coffee per day may reduce mortality risk from liver cirrhosis by roughly 66 percent, according to researchers in Singapore. This beneficial effect was observed in people whose liver disease was caused by non-viral hepatitis. However, drinking tea, soft drinks and fruit juice did not appear to impact mortality risk from liver cirrhosis. Alcohol, on the other hand, increased this risk.

Significance: Researchers speculate that coffee’s positive impact on liver cirrhosis may be caused by certain chemicals in coffee thought to reduce inflammation of the liver brought on by liver disease. Similarly, previous research has linked coffee intake to reduced liver damage in those with chronic liver disease.

Characters on cereal boxes boost sales

Location of study: U.S.

Results: While scanning the cereal aisle for healthy options, consumers are probably unaware that the characters on the boxes are influencing their purchases. A new study out of Cornell University found that consumers are 16 percent more likely to trust a cereal brand when its spokes-character looks them directly in the eye. Researchers also reported that the eye gaze of characters on children’s cereal boxes is usually directed downward at a 9.6-degree angle. Adult cereal boxes, on the other hand, feature characters that look almost straight ahead.

Significance: “Even if the direction of the gaze is incidental, if people feel like there’s eye contact with the character, it would make them feel more connected to the brand and more likely to choose it,” said Aner Tal, a post-doctoral lab researcher at Cornell. Whether intentional or not, grocery stores are laid out in a way that’s designed to increase purchasing. For example, meats and milk are usually positioned toward the back of grocery stores so that customers have to pass through other areas where they’ll be more likely to make additional purchases.

Content provided by ZipTrials, a trusted source for the most up-to-date medical news and trending health stories.


Dinosaurs could have survived asteroid strike

It turns out there is a good and a bad time for the planet to be hit by a meteor, and dinosaurs were just unlucky.…


OkCupid admits to Facebook-style experimenting on customers

By Sarah McBrideSAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - OkCupid, a top U.S. matchmaking website, intentionally mismatched users to test its technology, the IAC/InterActive Corp service said on…


MTA fares still increasing 4 percent in newly…

The agency said the 4 percent increases, previously announced in December, will remain steady even as the MTA deals with increasing labor costs.


De Blasio, Bratton defend city's efforts after Eric…

Mayor Bill de Blasio justified the city's response to the death of Eric Garner, a Staten Island man who died while in police custody earlier this month.


Interview: Brendan Gleeson on the way 'Calvary' depicts…

Brendan Gleeson talks about how his new film "Calvary" began over drinks and how his character here is the opposite of the lead in "The Guard."


'Get on Up' producer Mick Jagger on the…

Mick Jagger, a producer on the James Brown biopic "Get on Up," talks about the time had to tell the singer some bad news and his favorite JB record.


'Glee' star Lea Michele to appear on 'Sons…

"Glee" star Lea Michele has been confirmed as a guest star in the final season of "Sons of Anarchy."


TV watch list, Monday, July 28: 'The Bachelorette'…

See Andi Dorfman make her big choice on tonight's 'Bachelorette' finale.


Larry Donnell has inside track in Giants tight…

Little-known Larry Donnell of Grambling State currently has the inside track, as the second-year player has received the bulk of the first-team reps.


Computer to Jets: Start Michael Vick over Geno…

Jets general manager John Idzik says the choice of who starts between second-year quarterback Geno Smith and veteran Michael Vick will be a “Jets decision.”


Yankees looking to trade for Josh Willingham: Report

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday the Yankees are interested in Twins outfielder Josh Willingham.


Joe Torre: I'm in Hall of Fame because…

Joe Torre spent 18 years putting together a near Hall of Fame career as a player. But it was the 12 years he spent as…


Glasgow: Hey, hey, the gangs aren't here

This European city has done a good job getting rid of its more violent residents and revitalizing with artists.


Babson College tops list of best colleges for…

Money magazine has just released its inaugural list of "The Best Colleges for Your Money" -- and the answers have surprised many. Babson College, which…


NYC teens learn how to develop apps during…

Through a program sponsored by CampInteractive, the high schoolers designed their own community-focused apps.


The Ministry of Silly Walks app is both…

Monty Python have dug into their back catalogue for cash-ins once more, but with the Ministry of Silly Walks app, they've made something that's fun too.