Is it a dream come true? Can cocoa, which has been satisfying your sweet tooth for years, actually help you lose weight? The answer is both yes and no, and as most things in life, moderation is the key. Check with your doctor before making any decisions about whether or not to include cocoa powder in your weight loss plan.
Cocoa and chocolate are commonly confused, but as a May 2011 article published by “Nutra Ingredients” emphasizes, cocoa is not chocolate. A scientist from the Nestlé Research Center explained that chocolate and cocoa are two different terms and are not interchangeable. Cocoa is the non-fat component of cocoa liquor, made by grinding cocoa beans. Cocoa butter, cocoa, sugar and other ingredients go into the making of chocolate. However, chocolate offers promise as a diet aid because cocoa contains components called polyphenols that have been shown to inhibit digestion.
Polyphenols are a broad class of naturally occurring antioxidants found in plants. Researchers studied polyphenols in cocoa plants in terms of their role in human digestion and described the results in the April 2011 issue of the “Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.” The researchers placed human digestive enzymes in a Petri dish along with cocoa polyphenols and observed the cocoa extract stopped the enzymes from working. They found that the least processed cocoa extracts exhibited the strongest effect. This study followed up on an earlier experiment that demonstrated cocoa’s ability to interfere with food metabolism.
Dietary fats are metabolized in the body and used as energy. If the energy isn’t used, the fats are stored as fatty tissue. Japanese researchers reporting in the May 2005 issue of “Nutrition” tested the ability of cocoa to interfere with the ability of the body to metabolize dietary fat into fatty tissue. They fed two groups of rats a high-fat diet and supplemented cocoa in one group and an artificial cocoa in the other. After three weeks, the body and fatty tissue weights were significantly lower in the rats fed the real cocoa.
Researchers reporting in the April 2010 issue of the “British Journal of Nutrition” suggest that regular cocoa consumption in dark chocolate should be a regular part of anyone’s diet. The researchers discovered that eating dark chocolate led to a 20 percent reduction in oxidative damage to the blood of healthy subjects, but the effects disappeared after 22 hours. The authors suggest consuming a moderate amount of dark chocolate on a regular basis as a part of a planned diet and weight management program.
- “Nutra Ingredients”; Heshey: Cocoa Polyphenols Show Weight Management Potential: Stephen Daniells; May 5, 2011
- “Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry”; Inhibition of Key Digestive Enzymes by Cocoa Extracts and Procyanidins; Yeyi Gu et al.; May 2011
- “Nutrition”; Ingested Cocoa Can Prevent High-fat Diet-induced Obesity by Regulating the Expression of Genes for Fatty Acid Metabolism; Naoko Matsui et al.; May 2005
- “British Journal of Nutrition”; Effect of Dark Chocolate on Plasma Epicatechin Levels DNA Resistance to Oxidative Stress and Total Antioxidant Activity in Healthy Subjects; Angela Spadafranca et al.; April 2010