Can Chocolate Reduce Body Fat?

Maylin Rodriguez-Paez, RN

Many of us feel guilty after eating chocolate. After all, we’ve been lead to believe that it’s completely
unhealthy and fattening for most of our lives.

A recent study, however, actually associated eating chocolate with less body fat. This, of course, inspired lots of excitement from both “chocoholics” and health enthusiasts alike.

Sure, this may seem like a dream come true for people who love chocolate, but we’re going to have to dig a little deeper. Ready?

Eating Chocolate is Associated with Less Body Fat

In Spain, scientists conducted a food survey on more than 1,400 adolescents. The goal of the study was to evaluate if eating chocolate was associated with a lower BMI (body mass index).

They measured body fat, waist circumference, and physical activity. Overall, they found that kids who ate higher amounts of chocolate had less central and total body fat.1

Obviously, there are limitations to the study. For one, scientists only found a correlation. On top of that, they didn't go into specific details regarding the types of chocolate the kids were eating. That’s a pretty big detail, as far as we’re concerned.

What would've been better? A study showing that eating chocolate causes fat loss. Oh wait, there’s one of those too…

Eating Chocolate Leads to a Smaller Waist

In another study, normal weight but obese women (women with a normal BMI but with excessive body fat) ate 100 grams of dark chocolate (70% cocoa) per day for seven days. Blood work was taken and body fat was measured by a method called dual energy-X-ray absorptiometry (DXA).

The results were interesting. These women lost fat around their waist plus they experienced a few other benefits. Levels of HDL “good cholesterol” increased, while total cholesterol/HDL and LDL/HDL cholesterol ratios decreased.

In addition, a measure of inflammation called interleukin-1 receptor antagonist decreased.2 Pretty interesting, isn't it?

Can I Go Nuts with Chocolate Now?

Does all this mean that you can just indulge endlessly without regret? Not at all. There are only a few studies associating chocolate with reduced body fat and more research certainly needs to be done.

Also, please keep in mind that chocolate is a calorically dense food. And in both of the studies mentioned, participants were eating moderate amounts. A good starting “dose” is about one ounce daily.

How to Find Healthy Chocolate

Go for dark chocolate and make sure it’s at least 70% cocoa. This ensures you’re getting plenty of healthy flavonoids. Milk chocolate, for example, is definitely not the best choice. Milk proteins can bind to the antioxidants in chocolate, hindering their absorption.3

Also watch for the sugar content! You don’t want to eat dark chocolate that’s loaded with sugar — that defeats the purpose. Luckily, there are brands out there that use stevia or xylitol, which are healthy sugar alternatives.

Xylitol for example, is a natural sweetener found in fruits and vegetables. Compared to table sugar, it does not cause sharp blood sugar spikes, and it even protects against cavities and tooth decay.4

The Bottom Line

It’s perfectly fine to eat some chocolate from time to time, and newer studies are suggesting that it may actually be good for us, if consumed properly.

Health-conscious people and even those actively trying to lose weight do not have to boycott chocolate entirely. In the end, it’s all about moderation and eating the right type of chocolate.

Of course, stay tuned for more research on this topic. We know we will!

References

  1. Nutrition. 2013 Oct 17. pii: S0899-9007(13)00346-8.
  2. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2013 Aug;17(16):2257-66.
  3. J Thromb Thrombolysis.2009 Nov;28(4):482-8.
  4. J Calif Dent Assoc. 2003 Mar;31(3):205-9.

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