According to an ancient Aztec legend, it was Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent god, who brought the first cocoa plant to earth and taught men how to make a special spiced drink, the first chocolate drink! Over the centuries the fame of cocoa has grown even if for a long time cocoa has been seen just as a voluptuary food. In recent years, several scientific studies have shown that, on the other hand, cocoa is also a powerful ally for health as it is rich in antioxidants for heart health. From today we know that cocoa is also useful against obesity, as evidenced by scientific research published in The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry by an American team from Pennsylvania State University (Sun et al, JNB, 2021).
The anti-obesity properties of cocoa
Thanks to previous research, we know that, in presence of the same diet rich in fat, the daily intake of cocoa led to a 20% lower weight gain compared to those who did not consume cocoa. Based on these data, the American researchers tested the anti-obesity properties of cocoa on a population of mice that, unlike other research, were already obese and had fatty liver.
All the tested mice received a high fat diet. The experiment involved providing half of the animals with 80 mg of cocoa powder per gram of body weight, every day for ten weeks, which corresponds to ten tablespoons of cocoa powder or five cups of cocoa drink for humans. At the end of the ten weeks, the mice that received the cocoa powder had 28% less fat in the liver than the mice that did not receive the cocoa. Not only that, those who took cocoa also had 56% lower levels of oxidative stress and 75% less liver damage than those who had only received the high-fat diet.
Cocoa reduces the digestion of fats
The explanation of what has been observed seems to be the presence, in cocoa, of active ingredients capable of inhibiting the enzymes responsible for the digestion of fats and carbohydrates. Therefore, including cocoa in the diet of the mice meant that when they ingested fat, the fat was not digested but excreted. This experiment was not conducted on humans but, according to the authors of the research, it is plausible that cocoa has the same anti-obesity effect on humans. But it is also emphasized by the authors that, in case of overweight and obesity, it is not a good idea to choose a sedentary lifestyle and an unbalanced diet that, however, includes five cups of cocoa drinks. In fact, cocoa performs its maximum anti-obesity action within an active and healthy lifestyle. For example, after a brisk walk it can be an interesting choice to take a cup of drink prepared with cocoa powder.