Type 2 Diabetes mellitus (T2D) is the most common form of diabetes and one of the most common chronic diseases. Control of hyperglycaemia by hypoglycaemic drugs is insufficient in for patients and nutritional approaches are currently being explored. Natural dietary compounds such as flavonoids, abundant in fruits and vegetables, have received broad attention because of their potential capacity to act as anti-diabetic agents. Especially cocoa flavonoids have been proved to ameliorate important hallmarks of T2D. In this review, an update of the most relevant reports published during the last decade in cell culture, animal models and human studies is presented. Most results support an anti-diabetic effect of cocoa flavonoids by enhancing insulin secretion, improving insulin sensitivity in peripheral tissues, exerting a lipid-lowering effect and preventing the oxidative and inflammatory damages associated to the disease. While it could be suggested that daily consumption of flavanols from cocoa or dark chocolate would constitute a potential preventive tool useful for the nutritional management of T2D, this recommendation should be cautious since most of commercially available soluble cocoa products or chocolates contain low amount of flavanols and are rich in sugar and calories that may aggravate glycaemic control in T2D patients.
Keywords: beta cell; cocoa flavonoids; flavanols; hyperglycaemia; insulin resistance; procyanidins.