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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Hooray! Eating chocolate keeps you slim!

Chocolate may not be as hazardous to your waistline as you think — at least in moderation. Two recent studies show that people who eat chocolate frequently have lower body mass indexes than those who eat it less often.

1.  Spanish researchers of University of Granada examined the diets and healthy activities of 1,500 teenagers aged between 12 and 17 in nine European countries, including Spain and the UK.
They found that people who admitted eating large amounts of chocolate had, on average, far lower levels of fat over their bodies.
In particular, they were trimmer around the stomach area - regardless of whether they had an active lifestyle or were on a diet.

Chocolate was also found to have a positive effect on circulation, blood pressure and heart health.
Studies show the flavonoids in cocoa beans act as antioxidants, which eliminate cell-damaging free radicals and also affect metabolism. The higher the cocoa content, the more antioxidant activity, the greater the health benefits.
Dark chocolate contains five times more flavonoids than white chocolate and twice as many as milk chocolate.

Chocolate: comparisons of antioxidant activity and cocoa content
Listed from highest level of antioxidant activity to lowest level
Percentage of Cocoa (%)
Cocoa Powder
~ 88-96
Dark Chocolate/ Baking Chocolate
~ 45-80
Milk Chocolate
~ 5-7
White Chocolate
~ 0

Special considerations: milk vs. dark chocolate:
  • Milk binds to antioxidants in chocolate making them unavailable; therefore, milk chocolate is not a good antioxidant source
  • To get the benefits of antioxidants, avoid drinking milk with dark chocolate
  • White chocolate contains no cocoa solids and therefore is not a good source of antioxidants
More food for thought

Research shows that 65% of those who give up all sweet treats actually ended up gaining weight.
Moreover, a recent poll found that 86% of slimmers who carried on enjoying their favourite treats successfully lost weight. Janet Aylott, a nutrition scientist for Nutracheck, which commissioned the survey, said: ‘Extensive research has proven that diets centred around food elimination are much more likely to fail. ‘The key is to take a more relaxed approach and to have a little of what you like.’
Previous research has shown that dieters who completely eliminate treats such as chocolate, wine and biscuits are often more likely to put on weight as they ‘compensate’ by eating more of other foods.

2. The Spanish research backs up a 2012 study from the University of California, San Diego, which also found that chocolate-lovers have lower BMIs.
Dr. Golomb’s study involved roughly 1,000 adults. The researchers looked at data on how often they exercised, the amount and type of calories they ate — including a breakdown of the types of dietary fat they consumed — and how their health and weight related to their chocolate intake. On average, the subjects were middle-aged, exercised about three times a week and ate chocolate about twice a week. There was no breakdown of the kinds of chocolate they ate, whether dark, milk or white.

The people who ate chocolate the most frequently, despite eating more calories and exercising no differently from those who ate the least chocolate, tended to have lower B.M.I.’s. There was a difference of roughly five to seven pounds between subjects who ate five servings of chocolate a week and those who ate none, Dr. Golomb said.

Dietary studies can be unreliable, since so many complicating factors can influence results, and it is difficult to pinpoint cause and effect. But the researchers adjusted their results for a number of variables, including age, gender, depression, vegetable consumption, and fat and calorie intake. “It didn’t matter which of those you added, the relationship remained very stably significant,” said Dr. Golomb.

Still, the findings should not be taken as a license to overindulge in chocolate. Dr. Golomb cautioned that it was the frequency of chocolate consumption — not the amount per serving — that had a beneficial effect on B.M.I. Indeed, there was a small trend toward higher B.M.I.’s among those consuming larger amounts of chocolate per sitting.

“It’s not the case that eating the largest amount of chocolate is beneficial; it’s that eating it more often was favorable,” Dr. Golomb said. “If you eat 10 pounds of chocolate a day, that’s not going to be a favorable thing.”

The antioxidants, in which chocolate is rich, also affect metabolism and improve insulin sensitivity, Golomb says. Insulin resistance contributes to hypertension and obesity. "The chocolate provided better metabolism for all calories, not just the chocolate calories."

CONCLUSION: both the lead authors of the reserches STRESSED the importance of a moderate consumption of chocolate. I'd like to recall the statement of  nutrition scientist Janet Aylott: "The key is to take a more relaxed approach and to have a little of what you like".

TIPS - from U. of Michigan Integrative Medicine

 What qualities should you look for in dark chocolate? 

  • ≥ 60% cocoa
  • Made from cocoa butter instead of fats such as palm and coconut oils. Although cocoa butter does contain significant amounts of saturated fat in the form of stearic acid, it has been shown to have a neutral effect on cholesterol unlike the saturated fat in both palm and coconut oils.
  • Made without the use of 'hydrogenated' or 'partially hydrogenated' oils, which are known to negatively impact cholesterol
  • Darker is better: phytochemicals, like flavonoids, contribute to pigment. More flavonoids means darker chocolate and potentially greater health benefits.
  • Chocolate is only as good as its ingredients; look for dark chocolate made from organic or fairly traded cocoa beans (Find a list of fair trade certified chocolate producers at: http://www.transfairusa.org/)

Ideas for Healthy Dark Chocolate Consumption

- High-quality chocolate contains a high percentage of cocoa solids (60 %). It is brown or dark brown in color, and is glossy. Avoid purchasing chocolate that has a grayish tone, white spots on the surface, or small holes.
- A small portion of high quality dark chocolate is recommended. Be aware, dark chocolate is high in calories and fat, so consume sparingly.
- To avoid overindulging in dark chocolate, eat it after you have enjoyed a nice lunch or dinner.
- Have a piece of fruit prior to dark chocolate to help satisfy your sweet craving.
- Take your time- dark chocolate is rich and has complex flavors, eat it slowly and mindfully to increase enjoyment.
- Try dipping fresh fruit in melted dark chocolate for a divine dessert...

 Sources: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24139727
University of Granada