A story about cocoa, the key ingredient in chocolate, and its discovery by a team of Virginia Tech researchers as a powerful antioxidant would seem to be every chocoholic’s dream. But let’s back up a second.
News criteria being what it is, a story about cocoa and its health benefits fits nicely into the “unexpected” category. The potential was huge for this to be touted as a binge-on-chocolate-and-get-healthy story complete with a reporter brandishing a candy bar on the six o’clock news. But Assistant Professor of Food Science and Technology Andrew Neilson’s request was simple: don’t tell people that eating a chocolate bar is going to make you thin or healthy.
Still, Neilson’s research was compelling. Mice fed a high fat diet and who were fed a specific kind of flavanol found in cocoa were able to stave off two main societal ills, obesity and diabetes.
He showed that one particular type of compound in cocoa prevented laboratory mice from gaining excess weight and lowered their blood sugar levels when fed a diet high in fat. The flavanol oligomers (the medium sized of all of the flavanols tested) appeared to possess the greatest ability to prevent obesity and lower elevated blood sugar.
So, what can you eat? Neilsen suggests eating cocoa nibs and dark chocolate that is more than 70 percent cocoa. What’s that? You thought you could eat fat laden chocolate confections and not gain weight? Pie in the sky thinking, Neilson said.