Phytother Res. 2014 Jun;28(6):791-7.

Dark chocolate: an obesity paradox or a culprit for weight gain?

Farhat G, Drummond S, Fyfe L, Al-Dujaili EA.

Department of Dietetics, Nutrition and Biological Sciences, Queen Margaret University, Musselburgh, East Lothian, EH21 6UU, UK.



Obesity remains a major public health challenge, and its prevalence is dramatically increasing. Diet and exercise are typically recommended to prevent and manage obesity; however, the results are often conflicting. Polyphenols, a class of phytochemicals that have been shown to reduce the risk factors for diabetes type II and cardiovascular diseases, are recently suggested as complementary agents in the management of obesity through several mechanisms such as decreasing fat absorption and/or fat synthesis. Dark chocolate, a high source of polyphenols, and flavanols in particular, has lately received attention for its possible role in modulating obesity because of its potential effect on fat and carbohydrate metabolism, as well as on satiety. This outcome was investigated in animal models of obesity, cell cultures and few human observational and clinical studies. The research undertaken to date has shown promising results, with the possible implication of cocoa/dark chocolate in the modulation of obesity and body weight through several mechanisms including decreasing the expression of genes involved in fatty acid synthesis, reducing the digestion and absorption of fats and carbohydrates and increasing satiety. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

KEYWORDS: dark chocolate; flavanol; obesity; polyphenol; satiety

PMID: 24000103


Additional text

The review discusses a very modern topic, as there has recently been an emerging research on the effects of polyphenols in cocoa in counteracting obesity, and on the role of polyphenols in body weight control. Dietary polyphenols have been suggested as one of the complementary approaches to manage obesity, due to the ability of some of these components to modify molecular and physiological pathways implicated in adiposity and energy metabolism1. Therefore, the review exposed the research undertaken so far linking polyphenols/dark chocolate to lowering body fat/ obesity.

The implication of polyphenols in body weight control might be particularly important since despite weight-loss interventions, it is estimated that 68 % of the American adult population are still overweight or obese2. In addition, the modest effect of hypocaloric diets on reducing weight mainly due to poor compliance3 raises the need for strategies that target long-term interventions and may therefore help in long-term weight maintenance. This review might be helpful in bringing the attention to the possible initiation of human studies analysing the effect of dark chocolate on obesity, especially that limited research has been undertaken in this field. This topic should be of particular interest to readers and researchers interested in research on obesity, polyphenols, as well as chronic diseases.



1. MEYDANI, M. and HASAN, S.T., 2010. Dietary polyphenols and obesity. Nutrients. vol. 2, no. 7, pp. 737-751

2. FLEGAL, K.M., CARROLL, M.D., OGDEN, C.L. and JOHNSON, C.L., 2002. Prevalence and trends in obesity among US adults, 1999-2000. Jama. vol. 288, no. 14, pp. 1723-1727.

3. FOSTER, G.D., MAKRIS, A.P. and BAILER, B.A., 2005. Behavioral treatment of obesity. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. July, vol. 82, no. 1 Suppl, pp. 230S-235S.

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