Using the metabonomics technique, scientists from the Nestlé Research Center (NRC), BASF and Berlin-based Metanomics GmbH report that daily consumption of 40 grams of dark chocolate significantly changed a person’s metabolism, as well as changing the metabolism of the gut microflora.
The implications of the new study are “that subtle changes in dietary habits, such as eating dark chocolate, can benefit both host and microflora metabolism with potential long term health benefits”, said co-author Dr Serge Rezzi, Head of the Metabonomics and Biomarkers Group at the NRC, in an email correspondence with NutraIngredients.
The –omics approach
Proteome research is a relatively new area which involves characterising the structure of all the proteins produced by our genes, so as to understand the metabolic changes that take place when we digest food.
According to results published in the Journal of Proteome Research, the metabolic effects induced by chocolate were only statistically significant in people with anxiety.
Urine levels of the stress hormone cortisol decreased, as did levels of compounds such as adrenaline, well-known to be released during physical and mental stress.
“The daily consumption of dark chocolate resulted in a significant modification of the metabolism of healthy and free living human volunteers with potential long-term consequences on human health within only 2 weeks treatment,” wrote the researchers, led by the NRC’s Sunil Kochhar.
“This was observable through the reduction of levels of stress-associated hormones and normalization of the systemic stress metabolic signatures.
“Therefore, subtle changes in dietary habits are likely to modulate the metabolic status of free-living individuals that might be associated with long-term health consequences, in particular via the activity of the symbiotic bacterial partners,” added Kochhar.
The NRC scientists recruited 30 healthy, free-living people and classified them according to their anxiety traits. The participants were subsequently assigned to receive 40 g of dark chocolate (Noir Intense, 74 per cent cocoa solids, Nestlé) for two weeks. Urine and blood samples were taken and analysed using proton nuclear magnetic resonance (1H NMR) spectroscopy and mass spectrometry (MS)- based metabonomics.
Results showed that people with high anxiety displayed a different and distinct metabolic profile, including hormonal metabolism for adrenaline, DOPA, and 3-methoxy-tyrosine and activity of gut microbiota metabolism, than people with a low anxiety trait.
Following consumption of dark chocolate, “we observed decreased levels of stress hormones and metabolites from pathogenic bacteria following chocolate consumption”, said Dr Rezzi.
Dr Rezzi was unable to comment on future research in this area.
Source: Journal of Proteome Research
Volume 8, Pages 5568-579, doi: 10.1021/pr900607v
“Metabolic Effects of Dark Chocolate Consumption on Energy, Gut Microbiota, and Stress-Related Metabolism in Free-Living Subjects”
Authors: F-P.J. Martin, S. Rezzi, E. Pere-Trepat, B. Kamlage, S. Collino, E. Leibold, J. Kastler, D. Rein, L.B. Fay, S. Kochhar