Since the days of the Aztecs, armies have given their soldiers chocolate for quick energy and to forestall hunger on the march.
Chocolate is normally thought of as a high-calorie sweet that can destroy attempts at weight control.
To be sure, research affirms the popular impression that some people—mostly women, for unknown reasons—have extreme chocolate cravings that lead to overindulgence and weight gain.
When chocolate cravers were shown pictures of chocolate during an MRI session, areas of the brain associated with impulse and craving lit up... but this effect was not seen in non-cravers, who constitute the vast majority of people (Rolls ET and McCabe C 2007).
When it's eaten in moderation, dark chocolate—defined as containing more than 60 percent cocoa solids—is inherently healthful.
Anyone who knows chocolate well can tell you that dark bars are much more filling than lighter, milkier bars.
And the more cocoa a bar contains the healthier and less caloric it will be. (In addition to the deep flavor delivered by extra cocoa, this is why we chose to make Vital Choice Organic Extra Dark Chocolate bars a whopping 80 percent cocoa.)
Danish study finds dark chocolate deters overeating
Now, it looks as though chocolate—but only dark chocolate—could actually be an aid to appetite control.
To compare the effects of dark and milk chocolate on people’s appetites and their subsequent calorie intake, researchers at the University of Copenhagen recruited 16 men who said they liked both milk and dark chocolate (UC 2008).
In a so-called “crossover” experiment, the men reported for two separate sessions; the first time they consumed dark chocolate, and the second time they ate milk chocolate.
The men had fasted for 12 hours beforehand and were offered 100grams (3.5 oz) of chocolate, which they consumed in the course of 15 minutes. The calorific content was virtually the same for the milk and dark chocolate.
During the following 5 hours, participants were asked to register their appetite every half hour, reporting their hunger, satiety, craving for special foods and how they liked the chocolate.
Two and a half hours after eating the chocolate, they were given pizza and were instructed to eat as much as they wanted until they felt “comfortably satiated.” Total calorie intake was recorded after eating the pizza.
After eating the dark variety, they consumed fewer calories at a subsequent meal.
The participants also reported less craving for fatty, salty and sugary foods.
“The results were significant,” wrote the researchers. “The calorie intake at the subsequent meal... was 15 per cent lower when they had eaten dark chocolate beforehand” (UC 2008).
In other words, eating a square or two of dark chocolate before a meal could cut your calorie intake at the table.
And it could also keep you from snacking on junky, empty-calorie fare that only fuels appetite.
The antoxidant agents in cocoa
Dark chocolate is uniquely abundant in the same flavanol antioxidants found in berries, tea, and grapes, which exert a range of beneficial genetic influences on key metabolic factors affecting weight gain.
And virtually all research done to date suggests that the antioxidants in chocolate help lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
To read more of our reportage on chocolate and cocoa antioxidants, search our newsletter archive for “chocolate” and “cocoa.”
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