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Research spotlight: How can dark chocolate help athletes?

Research spotlight: How can dark chocolate help athletes?

To mark National Fitness Day, we invite you to view two impactful studies which consider ways in which fitness and exercise can be used to prevent injury and illness.

How can dark chocolate help athletes?

A study published in Hindawi’s open access journal Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity suggests that eating chocolate every day could help reduce exercise-induced muscle injuries in athletes. The researchers behind the study found that markers of oxidative stress and muscle injury in the blood decreased when elite footballers ate dark chocolate daily for 30 days.

Dark chocolate contains natural compounds called polyphenols, which have anti-oxidant properties. Previous research has shown its potential as an antioxidant supplement. However, no-one had tested the potential of dark chocolate to reduce oxidative stress and muscle injury in elite athletes. To 

Professor Roberto Carnevale of the Sapienza University of Rome said: “We studied 24 elite football players assigned to either a daily dark chocolate supplement (>85% cocoa) or no treatment for 30 days during a training programme,” explains Carnevale. “We measured blood levels of antioxidant molecules, and markers of oxidative stress and muscle damage at the start of the study and after 30 days of chocolate intake.”

The results showed that dark chocolate has the potential to decrease levels of muscle injury in elite athletes. “After 30 days of dark chocolate intake, the footballers had increased levels of antioxidant molecules with an accompanying reduction in oxidative stress and muscle damage markers,” says Carnevale.

The results mean that natural antioxidants such as dark chocolate could be a simple, inexpensive – and delicious – way to reduce levels of exercise-related muscle injury. 

“This research could help qualified sports dieticians to recommend healthy nutrients with specific antioxidants to reduce the risk of muscle damage induced by oxidative stress,” explains Carnevale. 

Read more >> 

Dark Chocolate Intake Positively Modulates Redox Status and Markers of Muscular Damage in Elite Football Athletes: A Randomized Controlled Study

What type of training can help to prevent Type 2 diabetes? 

Exercise plays a key role in preventing the development of Type 2 diabetes in people at risk due to their lifestyle and weight. A study, published in Journal of Diabetes Research, compares the relative benefits of resistance and aerobic training. It has found that, while both types of exercise are beneficial, resistance training has the additional advantage of building muscle mass.

The study – a 12-month, randomized controlled trial conducted by researchers in China and the US – followed 105 people in their mid-fifties to late sixties with prediabetes. Thirty-five undertook a programme of resistance training, 35 aerobic training and 35 no training schedule to act as a control group.

The researchers, led by Qingqing Lou at Nanjing University of Chinese Medicine, monitored participants’ muscle and fat tissue levels using CT scans.  A number of other metabolic variables, including glucose and insulin levels, were also recorded, as well as physical measurements, including BMIs and waist-to-hip ratios.

People in both training groups had reduced fat tissue and improved metabolic indicators, and were similarly less likely to develop Type 2 diabetes than those in the control group. The researchers were interested to notice, however, an increase in muscle mass in the resistance training group that was not matched for those in the aerobic training group.

The authors believe this is the first randomized controlled trial to compare the benefits of resistance and aerobic training in preventing the progression of prediabetes into diabetes. The study’s overall message is that resistance training should be included in the mix of exercise recommended for people with prediabetes.

Read more >> 

Effect of 12-Month Resistance Training on Changes in Abdominal Adipose Tissue and Metabolic Variables in Patients with Prediabetes: A Randomized Controlled Trial

And here are some related new articles in support of National Fitness Day: 

“Performance of Fitness Functions Based on Natural Frequencies in Defect Detection Using the Standard PSO-FEM Approach” 

Authors: Xiao-Lin Li, Roger Serra, and Julien Olivier
Journal: Shock and Vibration

“Relationship Between Motor Competence, Physical Fitness and Academic Achievement in Young School-Aged Children”

Authors: Maja Batez, Živan Milošević, Ivan Mikulić et al.,
Journal: BioMed Research International

“A Study of Physical Fitness and Enjoyment on Virtual Running for Exergames”

Authors: Chaowanan Khundam and Frédéric Nöel
Journal: International Journal of Computer Games Technology

This blog post is distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC-BY). The illustration is by David Jury and is also CC-BY.

Article of the Year Award: Outstanding research contributions of 2020, as selected by our Chief Editors. Read the winning articles.