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Nutrition Journal Research shows that the more chocolate you eat

Photo by Anne Hart. Unsweetened cocoa powder, frozen mango chunks, unsweetened almond milk, 1/2 avocado, and two tablespoons of flaxseed meal made into a smoothie in a blender.


Does research show that the more chocolate you eat, the lower your body fat level is? The point is to eat responsibly in moderation when it comes to chocolate, cocoa powder, or any other food. Higher chocolate consumption is 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, says a new study. At the same time, the price of chocolate may be rising. Reports indicate that growing demand in emerging markets and bad weather in key cocoa producing countries is pushing up the cost of chocolate this year.


Scientists at the University of Granada have disproved the old idea that chocolate is fattening, in a study reported the week of November 7, 2013 in the journal Nutrition. Results of a new study demonstrated that a higher chocolate consumption was associated with lower total and central fatness in European adolescents. 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.


You can check out the abstract of the original study, "Association between chocolate consumption and fatness in European adolescents." Authors are Magdalena Cuenca-García, Jonatan R. Ruiz, Francisco B. Ortega, Manuel J. Castillo. 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.


Chocolate is not fattening, but it would be great if you ate the unsweetened type with fewer fats added


The study's 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, according to the November 7, 2013 news release, "Research shows that the more chocolate you eat, the lower your body fat level is."


Unsweetened cocoa without added table sugar or perhaps a pinch of stevia would be less fattening than chocolate loaded with fat, table sugar, or corn syrup. In the new study, 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 Healthy Lifestyle in Europe by Nutrition in Adolescence study known as HELENA. This project, financed by the European Union, studies eating habits and lifestyle in young people in 9 European countries, including Spain. You also can check out the PDF file format article on the HELENA study.


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 in the November 7, 2013 news release, Research shows that the more chocolate you eat, the lower your body fat level is, that 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”.


Chocolate is rich in catechins and flavonoids that have anti-inflammatory, anti-hypertensive, and anti-thrombotic effects


In fact, chocolate is rich in flavonoids—especially catechins—which have many healthy properties: “they have important antioxidant, antit-hrombotic, anti-inflammatory and anti-hypertensive 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 analyze 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 the journal Nutrition, the authors emphasize 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."


Chocolate in moderation: It can be addictive if that soothing, alkaline taste is all you crave from foods


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 emphasize 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." Also you may wish to see the abstracts of other studies such as, "Non-nutritive sweeteners: Review and update" and "Effect of television viewing on food and nutrient intake among adolescents."


You also may wish to check out my book, Neurotechnology with Culinary Memoirs from the Daily Nutrition & Health Reporter. At this date, it's listed at Amazon.com.