Chocolate lovers who indulge in the morning may see health benefits.
Good news for chocolate lovers! A recent study by researchers at the University of Murcia, Spain, demonstrated that the “timing of eating may change the daily rhythms,” and the team concluded that eating “chocolate in the morning may help burn body fat, decrease glucose levels, and improved microbiome health, thanks to the flavanol content.”
Food timing has long been known to be a factor in controlling weight. Many people avoid eating after 6pm, for example, to make sure the body has time to process the food and convert it to usable energy. Moreover, the researchers note, “eating at the wrong time could be a determining factor for the loss of synchrony between the circadian system and different metabolic processes affecting energy and adipose tissue metabolism and the obesity risk.”
The team hypothesized that having a high-energy or sugary food during a short-term period of two weeks in the morning or in the evening, “may affect energy balance and differentially impact body weight or body fat distribution due to changes in energy intake, substrate oxidation, sleep- and circadian-related variables, or microbiota composition and their metabolic activity.”
A sample of 19 postmenopausal females with healthy BMIs (body mass indexes) completed a randomized controlled cross-over trial during which that were instructed to eat either 100 grams of chocolate within one hour after waking or in the evening within one hour before bed, or no chocolate at all. This took place with a “duration of two weeks for each intervention and washout periods in between, for a total duration of 9 weeks,” the study notes.
The results suggested that participants did not notice significant weight gain when eating chocolate, but they did note “a reduced waist circumference” in the group eating chocolate in the morning. Participants in the chocolate eating groups also “had an increase of energy intake (extra 542 kcal), they spontaneously reduced their ad libitum energy intake by 16% (296 ± 442 kcal/d) when eating chocolate, especially in the morning.” They were less hungry and their appetite for sweets was reduced when eating chocolate in the evening or the morning.
The authors noted that those who ate chocolate at the start of the day also “witnessed increased lipid oxidation, which they believe could be related to theobromine and other methylxanthines present in chocolate that have been shown to increase thermogenesis and lipid oxidation, or to the flavanols (epicatechin or catechin), as other foods with similar contents of epicatechin or catechin that have been shown to increase fat oxidation.”
Furthermore, they noted, “Chocolate may improve glucose homeostasis by slowing carbohydrate digestion and absorption. Indeed, cocoa could reduce the rate and extent of macronutrient digestion by binding to and antagonizing digestive enzymes which may help explain the previously reported inverse relation between chocolate intake and Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus (T2DM) incidence.”
Harvard Medical School professor of medicine Frank A.J.L. Scheer and Marta Garaulet, both of the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders, Departments of Medicine and Neurology at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital, are co-corresponding authors of the article, which was published in The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) Journal.
“Our findings highlight that not only ‘what’ but also ‘when’ we eat can impact physiological mechanisms involved in the regulation of body weight,” said Scheer.
“Our volunteers did not gain weight despite increasing caloric intake. Our results show that chocolate reduced ad libitum energy intake, consistent with the observed reduction in hunger, appetite and the desire for sweets shown in previous studies,” added Garaulet.