Space & Innovation

Chocolate Can Make You Thinner

Chocolate Can Make You Thinner. Learn more about Chocolate Can Make You Thinner in this article.

THE GIST

- Compounds in chocolate may alter metabolism, reducing the fraction of calories that turn to fat.

- Go for dark chocolate with 60 to 70 percent cocoa.

- Try to stop after just a bite or two.

In a study that may seen like a dream come true, researchers have found that people who regularly eat chocolate tend to be thinner than people who don't eat chocolate at all.

Scientists still do not, unfortunately, endorse snacking on enormous piles of candy bars or massive bowls of chocolate ice cream. Nevertheless, the study adds to growing evidence that chocolate contains compounds that, in moderate doses, may alter metabolism, boost the energy efficiency of cells, and reduce the fraction of calories consumed that get deposited as fat.

PHOTOS: Art of Chocolate: A Short, Sweet History

Eventually, the research may lead to obesity drugs that isolate chocolate's benefits in the pill form. In the meantime, the findings suggest that a square of chocolate after dinner most nights could help counter bulging waistlines.

"The presumption has always been that because chocolate is full of pesky calories and eaten as a sweet, that it would be associated with higher BMI," or body mass index, said Beatrice Golomb, an internal medicine doctor who studies oxidative stress and other topics at the University of California, San Diego.

"This is not a randomized trial and we shouldn't necessarily make recommendations from it, but for now, people can feel less guilty about moderate chocolate consumption," she added. "It does make me feel less guilty about telling my patients that chocolate is my favorite vegetable."

People have been tuned in to the health benefits of chocolate for at least 5,000 years, said Francisco Villarreal, a cardiology expert who is also a professor of medicine at UCSD but was not affiliated with the new study.

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The plant that produces chocolate beans, called Theobroma cacao, translates to "food of the gods." The Aztecs and Mayans used its beans both as money and as a treatment for a variety of diseases. And ancient warriors consumed cocoa to increase their strength.

In modern times, researchers have linked chocolate consumption to a bunch of good health outcomes, including lower risk of cardiovascular disease, lower blood pressure, lower levels of bad cholesterol along with higher levels of good cholesterol, and increased sensitivity to insulin, which helps maintain steady blood sugar levels.

With its relatively high fat and sugar content, though, chocolate has long been considered a fattening and sinful pleasure. To test that assumption, Golomb and colleagues surveyed more than 1,000 healthy adults, whose BMIs ranged from 17 to 50. Below 18 is underweight. Above 25 is overweight. And above 30 is obese.

Among the questions in the diet-focused survey, one asked, "How many times a week do you consume chocolate?" Those who answered with five or more had BMIs that were, on average, a full point lower than people who said they didn't eat any chocolate, the researchers report today in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine.

ANALYSIS: Chocolate Supply Threatened by Cocoa Crisis

Enthusiastic chocolate-eaters didn't exercise more than chocolate-avoiders, nor was their educational history or presumed socioeconomic status any different. And people who ate more chocolate actually ate more calories overall.

Along with other research, Golomb said, these findings suggest that something in chocolate is helping people process calories more efficiently.

The secret may be epicatechin, a naturally occurring compound in cocoa beans that has been linked to impressive health and exercise benefits in experimental settings. In one of Villareal's studies, for example, mice ran 50 percent farther after consuming a relatively small amount of epicatechin.

In another study, which included just five people with heart failure and diabetes, Villareal's team found that epicatechin restored severely damaged mitochondria, the cell's energy factories.

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One theory for how chocolate works its magic is that cocoa compounds strengthen and increase the number of mitochondria in cells, and that these effects are independent of any antioxidant activity that chocolate might have. In Golomb's view, cells that are stressed send messages telling the body to turn calories into fat. But chocolate reduces stress on cells, which can then use their extra mitochondria to burn calories instead.

Unfortunately for chocolate lovers everywhere, more is not necessarily better. In fact, Villareal said, according to his research -- both published and yet to be published -- the ideal dose of epicatechin comes in serving of five grams of chocolate, which is about the size of a single Hershey's Kiss. Consuming more than that can cancel out chocolate's potential benefits.

"When you eat a little bit too much, the effects just simply disappear," he said. "This is a very unique sweet point for peak effects."

Researchers recommend eating dark chocolate with between 60 and 70 percent cocoa. The brand doesn't matter, but pick kinds with cocoa butter instead of hydrogenated fats. And as hard as it may be to stop, just a bite or two is probably ideal.

Chocolate often gets a bad rap for being fatty and full of sugar, but in moderation, chocolate that's high in cocoa can have a positive effect on metabolism.

Atlantic Halibut

April 25, 2012 -

Whole Foods, the Texas-based natural foods supermarket, no longer carries fish considered to be unsustainable. The Whole Foods ban includes fish that is either overfished or caught in a harmful way, according to their website. The popular Atlantic Halibut made the list, though the company will still sell Atlantic cod that is caught by hook and line or gillnets. "Stewardship of the ocean is so important to our customers and to us," David Pilat, the global seafood buyer for Whole Foods told the New York Times. "We're not necessarily here to tell fishermen how to fish, but on a species like Atlantic cod, we are out there actively saying, 'For Whole Foods Market to buy your cod, the rating has to be favorable.'" Here's a look at the list of fish that the superstore no longer sells and why.

Octopus Whole Foods uses ratings set by the Blue Ocean Institute, a conservation group, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California. The ratings are based on factors including how abundant a species is, how quickly it reproduces and whether the catch method damages its habitat.

Imported Wild Shrimp "At Whole Foods Market, we've been saying that our mission is to sell only wild-caught fish that has been responsibly caught. For a few years now, we've used color-coded sustainability ratings, from green (best choice) to red (avoid), to help you make an informed choice. Now we're putting our mackerel where our mouth is: To support greater abundance in our oceans, we're no longer carrying red-rated wild-caught seafood!" the company wrote on its blog.

Tuna (from specific areas and catch methods rated "red") On their website, Whole Foods says that they stopped selling "species that were extremely depleted in the oceans, such as orange roughy, shark and bluefin tuna" years ago. The company uses the sustainability ratings of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).

Rockfish According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, "In recent years, reduced fishing has allowed many rockfish populations to recover from low levels. Gear concerns remain, however -- trawl-caught rockfish should still be avoided."

Swordfish Some of the gear used to fish swordfish "accidentally catches sea turtles, seabirds and sharks," according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Skate Wing Skates are in the overfished category. Most are also caught with bottom trawls, which result in high levels of accidental catch.

Sturgeon According to Monterey Bay Aquarium, "Sturgeon farmed in the U.S. is a good alternative to most wild sturgeon, whose populations have seriously declined due to overfishing for sturgeon eggs (caviar)."

Tautog Also known as black fish, Tautog are considered a "vulnerable" species. They are found close to shore on hard-bottom habitats, occasionally entering brackish water.

Trawl-Caught Atlantic Cod Fishermen often catch cod with bottom trawl, large nets that skim across the seafloor. Trawling, according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, "damages marine habitats and produces bycatch."

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Turbot A cousin of Pacific halibut, turbot are a right-eyed flatfish -- as they develop, their left eye migrates across the top of the skull toward the other eye on the right side. Turbot are yellowish or grayish-brown on top and paler on their underside.

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Gray Sole Gray sole, a flatfish bottom-dweller, has experienced heavy fishing pressure from domestic and international fleets over the last half-century, according to Monterey Bay Aquarium.

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