Chocoholics wanted for new study

NOT many people need an excuse to eat chocolate everyday - but now a group of women are being asked to do just that.

NOT many people need an excuse to eat chocolate everyday - but now a group of women are being asked to do just that.

Researchers at the University of East Anglia are today launching a unique study which looks into how chocolate can help reduce the risk of heart disease in postmenopausal women with type 2 diabetes.

It has been shown that cocoa, the main ingredient of chocolate, is a rich source of compounds called flavonoids, which have been shown to reduce risk factors for heart disease.

And now, with the help of a Belgian chocolatier, a specially-made chocolate bar has been developed for the study, giving a higher dose of these protective compounds and maximising potential benefits.

The UEA is calling out for 150 women who meet the criteria to take part in the study, the first of its kind, where they will be asked to eat this specially formulated chocolate everyday for a year.

Aedin Cassidy, the lead researcher and Professor of Diet and Health at the UEA, said: “Despite postmenopausal women being at a similar risk to men for developing cardiovascular disease, to date they are under-represented in clinical trials.

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“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.”

The theory behind the research is that adding flavonoids to the diet may give added protection against heart disease on top of that provided by prescription drugs.

This is particularly important for the women who are the focus of this research, as deaths due to heart disease increase rapidly after the menopause and having type 2 diabetes increases this risk by a further three-and-a-half times.

Peter Curtis, clinical trial co-ordinator, said: “We think this study is going to be important for this group of ladies and tell us how to design effective intervention in the future.

“They are at such a high risk compared to non-diabetic and premenopausal women that any improvement in their risk can only be beneficial.”

As part of the study, participants will have their risk of heart disease tested on five occasions during the year to see whether change occurs. These tests will take place at UEA or the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.

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.”

The study is open to women under the age of 70 who have type 2 diabetes and have not had a period for at least one year and are not taking HRT.

Volunteers also need to have been prescribed cholesterol lowering drugs (statins) for at least one year.

Before starting the study, a screening visit will be arranged and the GP of the interested volunteers contacted for their approval. All the results of the screening visit will be forwarded to the participant's GP.

To find out more or to volunteer, call 01603 288570 and ask for Andrea Brown, study nurse, or Dr Peter Curtis, study co-ordinator, or email FLAVO@uea.ac.uk

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