Researchers in East Anglia in the UK are looking for 150 postmenopausal women with type 2 diabetes to take part in a study to find out if compounds in chocolate reduce the risk of heart disease in women with diabetes.

The study is funded by leading charity Diabetes UK, and is led by a team at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in Norwich, partnered by the Elsie Bertram Diabetes Centre, Norfolk, Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) and the Institute of Food Research (IFR).

For this first clinical trial of its kind, the researchers are looking for postmenopausal women with type 2 diabetes to eat specially formulated chocolate bars for a year.

(Before you get too excited, please read to the end of the article to make sure you meet the entry criteria!).

Lead researcher Aedin Cassidy, Professor of Diet and Health at 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.”

The flavanoids in chocolate’s main ingredient, cocoa, are known to reduce the risk factors for heart disease, but most of the chocolate we eat is made using a process that unfortunately destroys these health-giving compounds.

So the researchers have employed the services of a Belgian chocolatier to formulate a special bar of chocolate that contains higher amounts of flavanoids than standard commercially available chocolate.

The special chocolate bar will also contain soy, another rich source of flavanoids that are thought to be good for women’s hearts.

One of the researchers and a consultant in diabetes at the NNUH, Dr Ketan Dhatariya 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,” added Dhatariya.

Cassidy said they hoped to show that by adding flavanoids to their diet, the women will gain extra protection from heart disease and an opportunity to take more control over reducing their risk of heart disease in the future.

The researchers are hoping to recruit 150 women under the age of 70, who have type 2 diabetes, are not on hormone therapy and have been menopausal (ie no periods) for at least one year.

A woman’s risk of dying from heart disease increases rapidly after the menopause, and considerably more so, up to three and half times more, if she has type 2 diabetes. That’s why this group is the focus of the trial.

Another requirement is that the volunteers must have been taking prescribed cholesterol busting medication (statins) for at least one year, since the purpose of the study is to examine the effect of flavanoids over and above heart-protecting drugs.

Once recruited, the women will have their risk of heart disease assessed five times over the year. The tests will be done at UEA or NNUH in Norwich and travel costs will be paid.

Prospective volunteers will be paid a screening visit and approval sought from their GP, who will receive the screening results.

Interested potential volunteers should contact Andrea Brown (study nurse) or Dr Peter Curtis (study co-ordinator) at You can also phone them on 01603 288570.

Sources: University of East Anglia.

Written by: Catharine Paddock, PhD