A new study published in the International Archives of Medicine adds to the growing data supporting the benefits of dark chocolate in promoting weight loss. Of all the foods available on planet Earth, perhaps the most magical (and interesting) is chocolate. This delectably seemingly addictive food is produced from the beans of the cacao tree whose official name Theobroma cacao reflects the long standing love for chocolate (theobroma being the Greek word for “food of the gods”).
A 2012 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine showed that frequent chocolate consumption was associated with lower body mass index (BMI) – a ratio of height and weight that’s used to measure obesity. It is important to point out, however, that these benefits of chocolate were only apparent with moderate consumption and that consuming large quantities of chocolate would obviously be counterproductive to losing weight. The recommended “dose” of dark chocolate is approximately 30g to 60g/day (roughly 1 to 2 ounces of a bar with a >70% cocoa content).
Other key areas of research into the benefits of chocolate consumption are its effect on cardiovascular disease and brain health. A growing amount of recent research suggests that:
- Chocolate can be a rich source of flavonoid antioxidants that are especially important in protecting against damage to cholesterol and the lining of the arteries.
- Chocolate flavonoids prevent the excessive clumping together of blood platelets that can cause blood clots.
- Unlike the saturated fats found in meat and dairy products, the saturated fats found in chocolate do not elevate cholesterol levels.
- Frequent chocolate consumption is associated with a nearly 40% reduced risk for heart disease and a 30% reduced risk for a stroke.
- Chocolate can provide significant amounts of arginine – an amino acid that is required in the production of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide helps regulate blood flow, inflammation, and blood pressure.
- Chocolate may help improve cognitive function and memory as we age.
In a new study from the Institute of Diet and Health in Germany, men and women between the ages of 19 and 67 were divided into three groups. One group was instructed to keep a low-carb diet and to consume a daily serving of 1.5 ounces of chocolate with 81-percent cocoa content (chocolate group). Another group was instructed to follow the same low-carb diet as the chocolate group, but without the chocolate intervention (low-carb group). In addition, a third group ate at their own discretion, with unrestricted choice of food.
At the beginning and end of the one month study, all participants gave a blood sample and their weight, BMI and waist-to-hip ratio were determined and noted. During the study, participants were encouraged to weigh themselves on a daily basis, assess the quality of their sleep as well as their mental state.
Results demonstrated that the subjects of the chocolate intervention group experienced the easiest and most successful weight loss. This effect began to be statistically significant at the 3-week mark as the weight loss was 10% greater in the chocolate group. Furthermore, in the last week of the study, the low-carb group started showing a rebound effect with weight gain. In contrast, the chocolate group experienced a steady decrease in body weight. This is confirmed by the evaluation of the ketone reduction. Initially, ketone reduction was much lower in the chocolate group than in the low-carb peer group, but after a few weeks, the situation changed.
Improvements in cholesterol levels, triglyceride levels and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels were similar in the chocolate and low-carb group.
Utilizing a detailed questionnaire to assess physical and mental symptoms, the chocolate group experienced significantly higher improvements in well-being compared to the low-carb group. The chocolate group showed significantly less symptoms of fatigue and the sensation of heavy legs.
The researchers concluded consumption of chocolate with a high-cocoa content significantly accelerates weight loss and increases the success of weight-loss diets.
The most significant result from this study was the prevention of rebound weight gain. Considerable evidence indicates that it is very difficult for most people to sustain a low carbohydrate diet and as a result, weight loss. Having a moderate amount of chocolate, in this case 1.5 ounces of a bar containing 81% cocoa, may give people the reward they need to stay on the weight loss course.
In addition to regularly eating 1 to 2 ounces of dark chocolate a day, there are several other ways that I get my chocolate fix. For example, almost every day I have a brew that I create with organic raw unsweetened cacao powder. I put two to three tablespoons of the cacao powder, one tablespoon of xylitol (sweetener), and two packets of stevia in a big mug and then put it under my K cup coffee maker spout and fill it up with decaffeinated coffee. I like it a lot. So much so that it has become part of my daily ritual. Is it helping me improve my health? Absolutely!
Bohannon J, Koch D, Homm P, Driehaus A. Chocolate with high cocoa content as a weight-loss accelerator. International Archives of Medicine 2015;8(55). doi: 10.3823/1654
Dr. Michael Murray