Is cocoa a long-sought solution to obesity?

Dark chocolate is a known ingredient for deserts, but besides that, it is also used for many types of healing process in biological science. In fact, foods and food ingredients prepared from the beans of Theobroma cacao tree is in use by humans since the 1980s. Unsurprisingly, its sweet and delightful taste has gone its way to the heart of almost everyone, making it the most consumed food products worldwide.

As many of us still thinks, chocolate is high in calories, carbohydrates, and fatty acids, making it an unhealthy food. People are told to eat in moderation at the least to avoid the likelihood of developing conditions such as obesity. The concern is not without reason anyway. Obesity is a complex disease that further increases the risk for other diseases, for example, cardiovascular disease due to excessive fat. 

However, it’s time to break the taboo of staying away from chocolate to lose weight. Dark chocolate possesses a certain type of surprising benefits, which help in losing weight by controlling appetite; thus, reducing cravings for food.  It also has positive impacts on your mood and holds back your desires to intake healthy foods. As the registered nutritionist, Isabel Smith, has also suggested, chocolate that contains at least 70% of cocoa can be used as a substitute to glucose syrups and milk solids to promote health. (Ellam & Williamson, 2013).

Nutritional facts of cocoa powder

According to the United State Department of Agriculture (USDA), the macronutrients contained in one tablespoon of cocoa are as follows.

    • 3-5.4 grams of protein
    • 6 grams fat content
    • 1 grams sugar or carbohydrates
    • 9 grams fiber

Aside from these, cacao also contains a considerable amount of micronutrients such as magnesium, potassium, copper, and manganese.

Potential significance in reducing weight

Not only cocoa powder is rich in nutrients, but it also delivers a considerable amount of nutritional value to the low-calorie diet. It offers additional benefits to your weight loss program through:

Improvement of sensitivity to insulin

The flavonoids present in dark chocolate help patients in combating with diabetes type II as it reduces insulin resistance using the following mechanisms:

    • Lowering the level of inflammation
    • Providing a reasonable control over blood sugar level
    • Lowing the fasting insulin

This is because polyphenols in cocoa reduce digestion and consequently, the absorption of carbohydrates such as mono and disaccharides. It aids in breaking down glucose into its components, promoting a balanced level of blood sugar and  insulin sensitivity. Cacao is also found to be associated with weight loss and fat storage reduction. It prevents spikes or crashes in blood sugar level, which causes an increase in appetite, thus, providing a firm step for weight loss (Katz, Doughty, & Ali, 2011).

Reduction in appetite or hunger

Research has provided evidence that dark chocolate provides the feeling of fullness due to its nutrition content and thus helpful in controlling cravings for food. The fact became evident when during a study, a group of women is allowed to smell and eat dark chocolate, which surprisingly decreased the level of glethrin, the hormone responsible for hunger. In another study, about 12 men were fed with dark chocolate and milk chocolate. The results were again similar, and participants who consumed dark chocolate felt fuller as compared to others. Lastly, another research involving postmenopausal women depicted the reduced intake of food as compared to those who took a considerable amount of white or milk chocolate. The healthy fats present in dark chocolate decrease the direct absorption of sugar into the bloodstream and therefore prevents the spikes of insulin. And a high level of insulin also results in increased hunger. The proponents of the chocolate-friendly diet claim that eating chocolate before 20 minutes and after 5 minutes of lunch cut down the appetite to about 50%; thus, a person doesn’t feel deprived even following the keto diet (Andújar, Recio, Giner, & Ríos, 2012).

Improving mental health

Dark chocolate also positively affects mental health and mood swings, ensuring that a person feels comfortable and best for weight loss. Research has shown that daily intake of about 1.45 ounces of chocolate lowers the chances of depression in females as compared to those who didn’t consume chocolate at all. Weight loss is not the only result of eating dark chocolate, but it also provides a happy high. Regular consumers of dark chocolate can sleep well, are less stressed, and have lower cholesterol or blood sugar levels. It also possesses antioxidants that fight against free radicals damaging our tissues (Farhat, Drummond, Fyfe, & Al‐Dujaili, 2014).

Improving metabolism of body

 

You may not know it but dark chocolate is loaded with monounsaturated fatty acids that boost your metabolism resulting in the burning of fats.  Research at Queen Margaret University shows that it affects the way our body synthesizes fatty acids and hence is helpful in the absorption of fats and carbohydrates. The polyphenols in it are found to boost your metabolism resulting in faster weight loss. It improves the ability of the body to metabolize dietary fats, which often become part of your tissues in the body. The cocoa extracts, which are processed to a reduced level, have a sound impact on your metabolism–boosting fat burning (Shah et al., 2017).

Revitalize exercise

Dark chocolate possesses anti-inflammatory constituents that, when combined with magnesium, lead to less muscular pain, making exercise easier to do. If you are feeling muscular pain at the gym, you can try eating dark chocolate at night and see personally experience its wonders (Monagas et al., 2009).

Reduction of inflammation

When your body is inflamed, it experiences damage at both cellular and tissue levels. Though they may look minute, these damages are actually linked to serious health conditions such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, etc. Additionally, it causes an abrupt increase in resistance to insulin and thus increases hunger or appetite. Eating a moderate amount of chocolate can protect your body against these damaging inflammations. One study in the American Journal of Nutrition  suggests that adding cocoa beans to yogurt exert positive effect by providing nutrient in the absence of sugars and extra calories.  Flavonoids, antioxidants, and polyphenols in dark chocolate reduce the level of bad cholesterol, i.e., low-density lipoproteins or LDL, which reduce the risk of vascular and inflammatory diseases (Keen, Holt, Oteiza, Fraga, & Schmitz, 2005).

Delivering healthy fibers

There are chances that you will not be able to obtain enough amount of chocolate when you don’t have a balance and awareness for what you are eating.  This becomes problematic when the intake of fibers is less in the diet. An adequate amount of fiber intake will help you feel fuller, being necessary for efficient bowel movements and digestive systems.  This, in turn, helps you to lose belly fat and prevents gaining again. A study has shown that taking about 10 grams of fiber daily reduces the risk of gaining belly fat to about 4%.  As unsweetened cocoa powder such as nibs and dark chocolate are rich in minerals, hence it helps reduce weight to a considerable level (Andújar et al., 2012).

Reducing amount of fat

It has been found that consumption of cocoa increases the production of adiponectin. This is the hormone involved in breaking down and regulating glucose and fatty acids in the body. Additionally, it also has insulin-sensitizing and anti-inflammatory properties, which help in the reduction of weight ultimately. Adults having a high level of this hormone will have lower fat in their body, thus fastening the process of fat burning in addition to preventing atherosclerosis and other such diseases (Jalil & Ismail, 2008).

In general, this article considers the fact that is the dark chocolate or cocoa is found to be healthy food in terms of weight loss? The evidence reviewed here supports a qualified yes. This is based on both facts, what is known and what is not known. Chocolate containing 70% cocoa, unlike other foods such as spinach, carries a considerable amount of good fats, least sugar, and other liabilities required for processing as Western societies have become prone to obesity. Hence, there is a need for such dietary ingredients whose intake affects mentally, physically, and its taste. Hence, Cocoa is the most delicious compound for weight purposes, confirming that cocoa is a long-sought solution to obesity or weight gain when taken in a moderate amount.

References

  • Andújar, I., Recio, M., Giner, R., & Ríos, J. (2012). Cocoa polyphenols and their potential benefits for human health. Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity, 2012.
  • Ellam, S., & Williamson, G. (2013). Cocoa and human health. Annual Review of Nutrition, 33, 105-128.
  • Farhat, G., Drummond, S., Fyfe, L., & Al‐Dujaili, E. A. (2014). Dark chocolate: an obesity paradox or a culprit for weight gain? Phytotherapy Research, 28(6), 791-797.
  • Jalil, A. M. M., & Ismail, A. (2008). Polyphenols in cocoa and cocoa products: is there a link between antioxidant properties and health? Molecules, 13(9), 2190-2219.
  • Katz, D. L., Doughty, K., & Ali, A. (2011). Cocoa and chocolate in human health and disease. Antioxidants & redox signaling, 15(10), 2779-2811.
  • Keen, C. L., Holt, R. R., Oteiza, P. I., Fraga, C. G., & Schmitz, H. H. (2005). Cocoa antioxidants and cardiovascular health. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 81(1), 298S-303S.
  • Latif, R. (2013). Chocolate/cocoa and human health: a review. Neth J Med, 71(2), 63-68.
  • Monagas, M., Khan, N., Andres-Lacueva, C., Casas, R., Urpi-Sarda, M., Llorach, R., . . . Estruch, R. (2009). Effect of cocoa powder on the modulation of inflammatory biomarkers in patients at high risk of cardiovascular disease. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 90(5), 1144-1150.
  • Shah, S. R., Alweis, R., Najim, N. I., Dharani, A. M., Jangda, M. A., Shahid, M., . . . Shah, S. A. (2017). Use of dark chocolate for diabetic patients: a review of the literature and current evidence. Journal of community hospital internal medicine perspectives, 7(4), 218-221.

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