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Cocoa compound shows appetite-controlling potential

By Stephen Daniells , 17-Aug-2016

© iStock
© iStock

Epicatechin – compound found in cocoa – may reduce food intake, and subsequently help control appetite and weight management, says a new study.

Scientists from the City University of New York report that doses of epicatechin above 1.6 milligrams per kilogram of bodyweight (or 112 mg for a 70 kg adult) in combination with a nonalkalized cocoa beverage may reduce food intake by about 20%.

Lower doses, however, were not found to have an effect on food intake, according to findings published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition .

“[O]ur randomized placebo-controlled trial involving healthy, young-adult men showed that a nonalkalized cocoa mixture was able to cause a significant acute decrease in food intake only after being supplemented with epicatechin,” wrote the researchers. “Compared with the placebo of an alkalized cocoa mixture, the supplemented cocoa mix, with a 1.6-mg/kg dose of epicatechin, significantly decreased ad libitum pizza intake by 18.7% 150 min after beverage ingestion. This effect may be solely due to the action of epicatechin or it may require the presence of other catalytic cocoa compounds. It is also possible that cocoa compounds other than epicatechin are able to acutely suppress appetite.”

Building the science

The study sheds further light on the potential for dark chocolate to moderate appetite in humans, previously reported by Danish researchers in Nutrition and Diabetes (2011, 1, e21) and Turkish researchers in Nutrients (2014; 6(9): 3863–3877).

“Neither study assessed the amounts of cocoa compounds that were used to achieve the observed decreases in appetite,” wrote the CUNY researchers. “In addition, the studies did not identify the responsible cocoa compounds.”

Epicatechin is found in flavonoid-rich foods such as cocoa and tea, and has been linked to a range of health benefits, including cardiovascular health. Image: © iStock

Four different groups were created and participants were randomly assigned to consume: A non-alkalized cocoa mixture containing 0.6 mg/kg epicatechin and 2.9 mg/kg procyanidins; an alkalized cocoa mixture containing none of these compounds (placebo); epicatechin at a dose of 1.0 mg per kg of body weight plus the placebo beverage; or the placebo beverage plus 6.6 mg per kg of procyanidins.

Results from this study showed that the ad libitum pizza intake 2.5 hours after beverage ingestion was no different between the placebo group and the group consuming the nonalkalized cocoa mixture with 0.6 mg epicatechin and 2.9 mg procyanidins/kg body weight.

A second, smaller randomized trial, which tested the effects of higher doses of epicatechin and procyanidins (1.6 mg and 10.3 mg/kg, respectively), found a statistically significant reduction in pizza intake of 18.7%.

“Our results suggest that a cocoa beverage may be better suited than dark chocolate for appetite suppression,” wrote the researchers. “Assuming that the dose of 1.61 mg epicatechin/kg, which produced our significant result, is required and that the dark chocolate contains adequate concentrations of appropriate catalysts, a 70-kg young-adult male would need to eat about 140 g (about 5 oz) of this chocolate, which would contain about 840 kcal. In comparison, only 98 kcal would be in the 31.5 g (1.1 oz) of our non-alkalized cocoa mixture supplemented with epicatechin that would be needed to deliver a dose of 1.61 mg epicatechin/kg to this person.”

Source: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Published online ahead of print, doi:10.3945/ajcn.115.129783
“Epicatechin, procyanidins, cocoa, and appetite: a randomized controlled trial”
Authors: J.A. Greenberg, R. O’Donnell, M. Shurpin, D. Kordunova

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