Eat chocolate and lose weight? Maybe, but it's not quite that simple.
According to a research letter in the March 26 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals, frequently eating chocolate was linked to lower body mass index (BMI), As other studies have suggested, the latest study finds that eating certain types of chocolate has been linked to some favorable metabolic associations with blood pressure, insulin sensitivity and cholesterol level. However, because chocolate can be a calorie-laden sweet there are concerns about eating it.
In February 2011, Japanese scientists followed up on earlier studies that have shown cocoa, the main ingredient in chocolate, appears to reduce the risk of heart disease by boosting levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good" cholesterol, and decreasing levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or "bad" cholesterol
In the latest study, Beatrice A. Golomb, M.D., Ph.D., and colleagues with the University of California, San Diego, studied 1,018 men and woman without known cardiovascular disease, diabetes or extremes of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) levels who were screened for participation in a clinical study examining noncardiac effects of statins. To measure chocolate consumption, 1,017 of the participants answered a question about how many times per week they ate chocolate. BMI was calculated for 972 of them. Of the participants, 975 completed a food frequency questionnaire.
“Adults who consumed chocolate more frequently had a lower BMI than those who consumed chocolate less often,” the authors note.
Participants had a mean (average) age of 57 years, 68 percent were men and the mean BMI was 28. They ate chocolate a mean (average) of two times a week and exercised 3.6 times a week.
“In conclusion, our findings – that more frequent chocolate intake is linked to lower BMI – are intriguing,” the authors conclude. “A randomized trial of chocolate for metabolic benefits in humans may be merited.”
In their study, the Japanese researchers said that credit for those heart-healthy effects goes to a cadre of antioxidant compounds in cocoa called polyphenols, which are particularly abundant in dark chocolate.
The scientists analyzed the effects of cocoa polyphenols on cholesterol using cultures of human liver and intestinal cells. They focused on the production of apolipoprotein A1 (ApoA1), a protein that is the major component of "good" cholesterol, and apolipoprotein B (ApoB), the main component of "bad" cholesterol.
What they discovered was cocoa polyphenols increased ApoA1 levels and decreased ApoB levels in both the liver and intestine.
Additionally, the scientists discovered the polyphenols seem to work by enhancing the activity of so-called sterol regulatory element binding proteins (SREBPs).
SREBPs attach to the genetic material DNA and activate genes that boost ApoA1 levels, increasing "good" cholesterol. The scientists also found polyphenols appear to increase the activity of LDL receptors, proteins that help lower "bad" cholesterol levels.