Having been exposed to the medical, metabolic, and physiological gender-based factors associated with weight gain, weight loss, body composition changes, and the psychological aspects in a diverse cross-section of male and female participants in Mackie Shilstone’s prior hospital-affiliated wellness and weight management programs over the last thirty years, he attests to the fact that what you eat, when you eat – along with age and health profile, account for many of the complex issues associate with weight control. The question at hand is, “Can chocolate help control appetite in postmenopausal women?”
Biologically speaking (circadian rhythm), late night eating certainly has its drawbacks on metabolic rate, cardiometabolic health, hormone secretion (melatonin production), and fat oxidation versus storage. Prior research and common sense have demonstrated that eating chocolate late at night has been associated with long-term weight gain, especially in postmenopausal women (average age of 51), who are vulnerable to weight gain. It appears now that chocolate and the timing of its consumption may have earned a bad rap.
Research – Timing of Chocolate Intake Affects Hunger, Substrate Oxidation, and Microbiota: a Randomized Controlled Trail – reported in the July online issue of the FASEB journal (the journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology), suggests that, “chocolate, in the morning or in the evening/night, in a narrow window of time (1 hour), results in differential effects on hunger and appetite, substrate oxidation, fasting glucose, microbiota composition and function, and sleep and temperature rhythms.”
“The intake of a rather high amount of chocolate (100 grams),” comment the researchers from Brigham and Woman’s Hospital in Boston, “concentrated in a narrow (1 hour) timing window in the morning could help to burn body fat and to decrease glucose levels in postmenopausal women.”
This determination involved 19 postmenopausal women, who completed a nine week, randomized, controlled, cross-over trial of “ad libitum food” intake – with either 100 grams of chocolate (~33% of their daily energy intake) in the morning, defined as within one hour after waking time, or at evening/night – within one hour before bedtime, compared to no chocolate intake. The duration of each intervention was two weeks, which included a transition period.
The study participants underwent the following tests and measurements: Body weight (baseline and three additional timed dates), height, body fat, dietary food intake record, visual analog scale before and after each meal (hunger & appetite assessment), body temperature, activity, sleep duration, number of awakenings, nap frequency and duration, metabolic rate assessment, salivary cortisol determinations, fasting glucose, and analysis of their gut microbiota (short- chain fatty acids from fecal samples).
The study found that the 19 postmenopausal women did not gain body weight with the chocolate intake. In fact, comment the investigators, “while the volunteers had an increase of energy intake due to chocolate’s extra calories (extra 542 kcal), as compared to the non-chocolate condition, they spontaneously reduced their ad libitum energy intake by 16%, when eating chocolate in the morning.”
This situation occurred even though the females consumed milk chocolate that has been shown to have less of an effect in decreasing appetite than dark chocolate. Further stated, “results show that when eating chocolate, females were less hungry and had less desire for sweets than with no chocolate, especially when taking chocolate during the evening/night. Moreover, daily cortisol levels were lower when eating chocolate in the morning than at evening/night.”
Lower cortisol levels have been shown to cause a reduced stress-related appetite, “which may partly explain the better caloric compensation by the females, when eating chocolate in the morning.”
The researchers stated, “our results also show that chocolate in the morning decreases fasting glucose. Chocolate may improve glucose homeostasis by slowing carbohydrate digestion and absorption.”
There were also favorable changes in the participants microbiota’s short chain fatty acid content that may have accounted for better hunger control.
Before you make a B-line to the nearest chocolate bar, this study involved a small number of targeted female participants – postmenopausal women. One size does not fit all.
Interested in Reading More? Check Out Can Small Amounts of Chocolate Be Good For You?