Slim by Chocolate

April 14, 2015 Updated: April 21, 2015

MAINZ, Germany—Can you indulge your sweet tooth and lose weight at the same time? If it’s chocolate you crave, then the answer seems to be yes. That is the surprising conclusion of a study by German researchers published in the International Archives of Medicine.

Confusion reigns in the diet world, with conflicting recommendations for diets that range from high protein to low carbohydrate and even high fat. According to many nutrition researchers, the problem is that these tools are too blunt. “What is important is the specific combination of foods in your diet,” says lead author Johannes Bohannon, research director of the nonprofit Institute of Diet and Health.

“Just lowering the proportion of carbohydrates is not a reliable weight loss intervention because it has different physiological effect depending on the bioactive compounds in your diet.”

Chocolate is a rich source of bioactive compounds, particularly a group of molecules called flavonoids, plant compounds associated with several positive health impacts. But teasing out the possible effects of such compounds in your diet, and how it may interact with various diet interventions, is rarely studied. It could be that simply consuming chocolate in combination with dietary interventions has no effect, or it could make such diets even more effective in the right dose.

To test the idea, the researchers divided volunteer human subjects aged 19 to 67 into three groups: One group followed a strict low-carbohydrate diet, another group followed the low-carbohydrate diet and also consumed about 1.5 ounces (42 grams) of dark (81 percent) chocolate per day, and a control group followed their status quo diet.

Besides tracking their body weight and measuring blood chemistry before, during, and after the intervention, subjects filled out questionnaires to assess sleep quality and subjective well-being, a key predictor of dietary compliance.

(Shutterstock)
It is not enough to just consume chocolate, but in combination with exercise and reduction in carbohydrates, our data indicate that chocolate can be a weight loss accelerator. (Shutterstock)

 

As predicted, the low-carb group lost weight compared to the control. But surprisingly, the low-carb plus chocolate group lost 10 percent more weight. Not only that, but the weight loss persisted, compared to the low-carb group, which saw a return of the weight after three weeks—a classic problem in dietary interventions known as the “yo-yo effect.” The chocolate group also reported better sleep and well-being, and their blood cholesterol levels were significantly reduced.

“To our surprise, the effect of chocolate is real,” Bohannon says. “It is not enough to just consume chocolate, but in combination with exercise and reduction in carbohydrates, our data indicate that chocolate can be a weight loss accelerator.

“The researchers suggest that high-cocoa chocolate has the potential to enhance other diets as well.

“The best part about this discovery,” Bohannon says, “is that you can buy chocolate everywhere, cheaply, and without having to believe diet gurus or purchase expensive nutrition products over the Internet.”

From Newswise

*Image of “man” via Shutterstock