Can Eating Chocolate Help You Lose Weight?
Eating chocolate before and after your meals is the newest weight-loss tactic. But is it too good to be true?
Eat Chocolate, Lose Weight. If the title of the new weight-loss book from neuroscientist Will Clower, Ph.D., isn't enough to grab your attention, its promise might: Eat chocolate 20 minutes before and five minutes after lunch and dinner to cut your appetite by up to 50 percent.
Um, what? This set off our "this has got to be too good to be true" alarm, so we did some digging to find out if the chocolate diet really holds any weight.
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It turns out, the sweet stuff can fight sugar spikes. In one study from the University of L'Aquila in Italy, people who ate a candy bar's worth of dark chocolate once a day for 15 days in a row decreased their potential for insulin resistance by almost 50 percent.
While researchers credit flavonoids for reducing insulin resistance, weight-loss specialist and board-certified internist Sue Decotiis, M.D., notes that dark chocolate also contains healthy fats, which slow the absorption of sugar into the blood stream. That helps prevent the dreaded insulin spike, which is famed for shuttling sugar straight into your fat cells. "Insulin spikes turn off your body's fat-burning mechanisms and make you hungry again several hours later," she says. Over time, they can also lead to insulin resistance and diabetes.
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Meanwhile, Swiss scientists have found that dark chocolate reduces the metabolic effects of stress, and University of Copenhagen researchers have shown that dark chocolate curbs cravings for sweet, salty, and fatty foods alike.
And that brings us to the fine print: This only works if you reach for dark chocolate (i.e., types that are made up of at least 70 percent cacao). "White and milk chocolate has a lot of added sugar and contains milk (also a type of sugar), while dark chocolate has less added sugar, contains monounsaturated fatty acids, and has a bittersweet taste that reduces the amount you eat," says Decotiis.
Plus, while it's hard not to take chocolate's weight-loss benefits as an excuse to pound chocolate bars like they're going out of style, Clower says each helping should be no bigger than the end of your thumb. Eat more than that, and not only could you overload on sugar and fat, but you could also ruin your dinner, says Decotiis.