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Have your cake and eat it: Chocolate consumption linked to lower BMI

By Stephen Daniells , 28-Mar-2012
Last updated on 28-Mar-2012 at 17:00 GMT2012-03-28T17:00:21Z

Have your cake and eat it: Chocolate consumption linked to lower BMI

People who consume chocolate frequently may have lower body mass index (BMI) values, suggests ‘intriguing’ data from the University of California, San Diego.

A research letter published in theArchives of Internal Medicineindicated that, in a study with over 970 men and women, frequent chocolate consumption was linked to lower BMI.

“Our findings – that more frequent chocolate intake is linked to lower BMI – are intriguing. They accord with other findings suggesting that diet composition, as well as calorie number, may influence BMI. They comport with reported benefits of chocolate to other elements of MetS,” wrote lead author Beatrice Golomb, MD, PhD, and her co-workers.

“Compatible experimental findings in rats given epicatechin from cocoa suggest the association could be causal.”

Cocoa’s benefits

The health benefits of polyphenols from cocoa have been gathering increasing column inches in the national media. To date studies have reported potential benefits for cardiovascular health, skin health, and even brain health.

The majority of science into the potential benefits of cocoa have revolved around cardiovascular benefits of the flavanols (also known as flavan-3-ols or catechins), and particularly the monomeric flavanol (-)epicatechin.

This is not the first time that cocoa and the compounds it contains has been reported to have potential for weight management. Scientists from the Hershey Center for Health and Nutrition and the Pennsylvania State University reported in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry (2011, Vol. 59, pp 5305–5311) that polyphenols from cocoa inhibited various digestive enzymes in a dose-dependent manner, meaning the more consumed, the greater the effect.

New data

The San Diego-based scientists report preliminary data from an analysis of almost 1,000 men and women aged between 20 and 85, and free of heart disease, diabetes, and abnormal cholesterol levels. Chocolate consumption habits were assessed using a questionnaire, while intakes of fruit, vegetables, and saturated fat were factored into the calculations.

Results showed that, although chocolate consumption was linked to higher calories and increased intakes of saturated fat, more frequent chocolate consumption was linked to lower BMI.

Commenting on the potential active ingredients in chocolate, the researchers not that catechins in chocolate possess antioxidant properties and they may influence metabolism.

“Cocoa-derived epicatechin, specifically, is reported to increase mitochondrial biogenesis and capillarity, muscular performance, and lean muscle mass and to reduce weight without changing calories or exercise in rodent studies,” they said. “Parallel processes in humans, if present, could underlie our findings.”

The researchers did not measure the types of chocolate consumed nor did they provide information on the quantities consumed by the study participants.

“A randomized trial of chocolate for metabolic benefits in humans may be merited,” they concluded.

Source: Archives of Internal Medicine
2012, Volume 172, Number 6, Pages 519-521, doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2011.2100
“Association Between More Frequent Chocolate Consumption and Lower Body Mass Index”
Authors: B.A. Golomb, S. Koperski, H.L. White

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