by: Celeste M. Smucker, MPH, PhD
(NaturalNews) The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that 68 percent of adults over the age of 20 are overweight, half of whom are considered obese. Of course obesity is also strongly linked to many other health problems including heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer. The economic costs are enormous. A 2011 article in the The Lancet estimates the annual medical costs of these diseases will increase by as much as $60 billion by 2030. While there is no magic solution to weight loss, research supports a number of health benefits of dark chocolate for this purpose including reduced insulin sensitivity, increased feelings of fullness and reduced stress and cortisol levels.
Insulin, which is released by the pancreas when blood sugar rises, has the job of escorting blood glucose into the cells. Repeated release of insulin due to too much sugary food causes the cells to develop resistance to insulin preventing it from doing its job and depriving the cells of needed nutrition. Now the body fears starvation, calls for more food and signals a need to store fat to protect against starvation. The result? Weight gain.
Substituting dark chocolate for some of the sugary foods may help reduce insulin resistance. A 2005 study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported on research in which 15 healthy individuals ate either white or dark chocolate for 15 days. At the end of this time those who ate the dark chocolate experienced significantly higher insulin sensitivity and significantly lower insulin resistance compared to the white chocolate group. As a nice bonus, the dark chocolate group also experienced lower blood pressure.
This is not an isolated study. Research published in 2012 in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and based on a meta-analysis of 42 studies of chocolate and cocoa, supported the connection between dark chocolate consumption and significant reductions in serum insulin which caused resistance to insulin to decrease. They also found chocolate associated with consistent reductions in blood pressure.
2. Chocolate helps stop food cravings
Reductions in food cravings between meals can help prevent overeating and this means foods that promote feelings of fullness can be important for weight loss. Once again healthy dark chocolate may be part of the answer. A study from Denmark reviewed in a 2008 edition of Science Daily found that dark chocolate, compared to milk chocolate, was more filling and also lessened cravings for unhealthy foods.
Sixteen lucky study subjects ate either dark or milk chocolate and then gave feedback on how hungry they felt over the next several hours. At the two and a half hour mark they were given as much pizza as they could eat. Researchers recorded calorie intake for each individual and found that it was 15 percent less for those who had previously eaten dark chocolate. The same group also noted lower cravings for snack foods (sweet, salty or fatty) compared to the milk chocolate group.
3. Chocolate reduces stress and cortisol levels
Stress triggers release of cortisol which causes the body to secrete more insulin leading to overeating. In a 2009 study published in the Journal of Proteome Research, 30 subjects who suffered from anxiety consumed 1.4 ounces of dark chocolate daily for two weeks. Urinalysis showed a resulting reduction in the excretion of cortisol prompting the scientists to conclude chocolate can alter human metabolism.