Research Shows The More Chocolate You Eat, The Lower Your Body Fat Level

chocolateScientists at the University of Granada have disproved the old idea that chocolate is fattening, in a study reported this week in Nutrition. Higher chocolate consumption associated with lower levels of total fat—fat deposits all over the body—and central—abdominal—fat, independently of whether or not subjects are physically active, and of their diet. The study—possibly the most comprehensive to date—included 1458 European adolescents aged between 12 and 17 years

University of Granada researchers from the Faculty of Medicine and the Faculty of Physical Activity and Sports Sciences have scientifically disproven the old belief that eating chocolate is fattening.

In an article published this week in the journal Nutrition, the authors have shown that higher consumption of chocolate is associated with lower levels of total fat (fat deposited all over the body) and central fat (abdominal), independently of whether or not the individual participates in regular physical activity and of diet, among other factors.

“recent studies in adults suggest chocolate consumption is associated with a lower risk of cardiometabolic disorders”.

The researchers determined whether greater chocolate consumption associated with higher body mass index and other indicators of total and central body fat in adolescents participating in the HELENA (Healthy Lifestyle in Europe by Nutrition in Adolescence) study. This project, financed by the European Union, studies eating habits and lifestyle in young people in 9 European countries, including Spain.

Independent of diet and physical activity

The study involved 1458 adolescents aged between 12 and 17 years and results showed that a higher level of chocolate consumption associated with lower levels of total and central fat when these were estimated through body mass index, body fat percentage—measured by both skinfolds and bioelectrical impedance analysis—and waist circumference. These results were independent of the participant’s sex, age, sexual maturation, total energy intake, intake of saturated fats, fruit and vegetables, consumption of tea and coffee, and physical activity.

As the principle author Magdalena Cuenca-García explains, although chocolate is considered a high energy content food—it is rich in sugars and saturated fats—“recent studies in adults suggest chocolate consumption is associated with a lower risk of cardiometabolic disorders”.

In fact, chocolate is rich in flavonoids—especially catechins—which have many healthy properties: “they have important antioxidant, antithrombotic, anti-inflammatory and antihypertensive effects and can help prevent ischemic heart disease”.

Recently, another cross-sectional study in adults conducted by University of California researchers found that more frequent chocolate consumption also associated with a lower body mass index. What’s more, these results were confirmed in a longitudinal study in women who followed a catechin-rich diet.

The effect could be partly due to the influence of catechins on cortisol production and on insulin sensitivity, both of which are related with overweight and obesity.

Calorie impact is not the only thing that matters

The University of Granada researchers have sought to go further and analyse the effect of chocolate consumption at a critical age like adolescence by also controlling other factors that could influence the accumulation of fat. The research, which is both novel and, perhaps, the largest and best-controlled study to date, is the first to focus on the adolescent population. It includes a large number of body measures, objective measurement of physical activity, detailed dietary recall with 2 non-consecutive 24-hour registers using image-based software, and controls for the possible effect of a group of key variables.

In Nutrition, the authors stress that the biological impact of foods should not be evaluated solely in terms of calories. “The most recent epidemiologic research focuses on studying the relation between specific foods—both for their calorie content and for their components—and the risk factors for developing chronic illnesses, including overweight and obesity”.

Despite their results, the authors insist that chocolate consumption should always be moderate. “In moderate quantities, chocolate can be good for you, as our study has shown. But, undoubtedly, excessive consumption is prejudicial. As they say: you can have too much of a good thing”.

The University of Granada researchers stress that their findings “are also important from a clinical perspective since they contribute to our understanding of the factors underlying the control and maintenance of optimal weight”.

http://canal.ugr.es/health-science-and-technology/item/68840

Consuming Flavanol-rich Cocoa May Enhance Brain Function

Eating cocoa flavanols daily may improve mild cognitive impairment, according to new research in the American Heart Association’s journal Hypertension.

Each year, more than six percent of people aged 70 years or older develop mild cognitive impairment, a condition involving memory loss that can progress to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Flavanols can be found in tea, grapes, red wine, apples and cocoa products and have been associated with a decreased risk of dementia. They may act on the brain structure and function directly by protecting neurons from injury, improving metabolism and their interaction with the molecular structure responsible for memory researchers said. Indirectly, flavanols may help by improving brain blood flow.

In this study, 90 elderly participants with mild cognitive impairment were randomized to drink daily either 990 milligrams (high), 520 mg (intermediate) or 45 mg (low) of a dairy-based cocoa flavanol drink for eight weeks. The diet was restricted to eliminate other sources of flavanols from foods and beverages other than the dairy-based cocoa drink. Cognitive function was examined by neuro-psychological tests of executive function, working memory, short-term memory, long-term episodic memory, processing speed and global cognition.

Researchers found:

  • Scores significantly improved in the ability to relate visual stimuli to motor responses, working memory, task-switching and verbal memory for those drinking the high and intermediate flavanol drinks.
  • Participants drinking daily higher levels of flavanol drinks had significantly higher overall cognitive scores than those participants drinking lower-levels.
  • Insulin resistance, blood pressure and oxidative stress also decreased in those drinking high and intermediate levels of flavanols daily. Changes in insulin resistance explained about 40 percent of the composite scores for improvements in cognitive functioning.

“This study provides encouraging evidence that consuming cocoa flavanols, as a part of a calorie-controlled and nutritionally-balanced diet, could improve cognitive function,” said Giovambattista Desideri, M.D., study lead author and director of Geriatric Division, Department of Life, Health and Environmental Sciences, University of L’Aquila in Italy. “The positive effect on cognitive function may be mainly mediated by an improvement in insulin sensitivity. It is yet unclear whether these benefits in cognition are a direct consequence of cocoa flavanols or a secondary effect of general improvements in cardiovascular function.”

The study population was generally in good health without known cardiovascular disease. Thus, it would not be completely representative of all mild cognitive impairment patients. In addition, only some clinical features of mild cognitive impairment were explored in the study.

“Given the global rise in cognitive disorders, which have a true impact on an individual’s quality of life, the role of cocoa flavanols in preventing or slowing the progression of mild cognitive impairment to dementia warrants further research,” Desideri said. “Larger studies are needed to validate the findings, figure out how long the positive effects will last and determine the levels of cocoa flavanols required for benefit.”

Co-authors are Catherine Kwik-Uribe, Ph.D.; Davide Grassi, M.D., Ph.D.; Stefano Necozione, M.D.; Lorenzo Ghiadoni, M.D.; Daniela Mastroiacovo, M.D.; Angelo Raffaele, M.D.; Livia Ferri, M.D.; Raffaella Bocale, M.D.; Maria Carmela Lechiara, M.D.; Carmine Marini, M.D. and Claudio Ferri, M.D. Author disclosures are on the manuscript.

Mars Inc. funded the study and provided the standardized cocoa drinks.

http://newsroom.heart.org/pr/aha/_prv-consuming-flavanol-rich-cocoa-237327.aspx

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