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Starting the day off with chocolate could have unexpected benefits

For postmenopausal women, eating 100g of chocolate within an hour of waking in the morning helped burn body fat and decrease blood sugar levels.

Eating milk chocolate every day may sound like a recipe for weight gain, but a new study of postmenopausal women has found that eating a concentrated amount of chocolate during a narrow window of time in the morning may help the body burn fat and decrease blood sugar levels.

To find out about the effects of eating milk chocolate at different times of day, researchers from the Brigham collaborated with investigators at the University of Murcia in Spain.

Together, they conducted a randomized, controlled, cross-over trial of 19 postmenopausal women who consumed either 100g of chocolate in the morning (within one hour after waking time) or at night (within one hour before bedtime). They compared weight gain and many other measures to no chocolate intake.

Researchers report that among the women studied:

  • Morning or nighttime chocolate intake did not lead to weight gain;
  • Eating chocolate in the morning or in the evening can influence hunger and appetite, microbiota composition, sleep and more;
  • A high intake of chocolate during the morning hours could help to burn fat and reduce blood glucose levels.
  • Evening/night chocolate altered next-morning resting and exercise metabolism.

“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,” said Garaulet.

Eating chocolate in the morning or in the evening/at night, may differentially affect energy balance and impact body weight due to changes in energy intake, substrate oxidation, microbiota (composition/function), and circadian-related variables. In a randomized controlled trial, postmenopausal females (n = 19) had 100 g of chocolate in the morning (MC), in the evening/at night (EC), or no chocolate (N) for 2 weeks and ate any other food ad libitum.

Our results show that 14 days of chocolate intake did not increase body weight. Chocolate consumption decreased hunger and desire for sweets (P < .005), and reduced ad libitum energy intake by ~300 kcal/day during MC and ~150 kcal/day during EC (P = .01), but did not fully compensate for the extra energy contribution of chocolate (542 kcal/day). EC increased physical activity by +6.9%, heat dissipation after meals +1.3%, and carbohydrate oxidation by +35.3% (P < .05). MC reduced fasting glucose (4.4%) and waist circumference (−1.7%) and increased lipid oxidation (+25.6%). Principal component analyses showed that both timings of chocolate intake resulted in differential microbiota profiles and function (P < .05).

Heat map of wrist temperature and sleep records showed that EC induced more regular timing of sleep episodes with lower variability of sleep onset among days than MC (60 min vs 78 min; P = .028).

In conclusion, having chocolate in the morning or in the evening/night results in differential effects on hunger and appetite, substrate oxidation, fasting glucose, microbiota (composition and function), and sleep and temperature rhythms.

Results highlight that the “when” we eat is a relevant factor to consider in energy balance and metabolism.

Source: News Release
Brigham and Women’s Hospital
June 24, 2021

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