The chocolate that won’t make you fat

January 11, 2012 - 05:33

By adding linseed and chilli to dark chocolate, researchers can raise your metabolism so you can eat chocolate without putting on weight.

If you want to reduce your risk of over-eating, you should buy quality dark chocolate, preferably with a cocoa percentage above 70. The chocolate should only contain cocoa butter, not vegetable fats or butterfat. (Photo: Colourbox)

Imagine a bar of chocolate that tastes good, is filling – and which raises your body’s metabolism, so you can eat the chocolate without putting on weight.

This may sound too good to be true, but it is precisely what researchers at the University of Copenhagen have in their melting pot.

“It would be good if ordinary people could use this chocolate as part of their normal eating diet and actually eat less,” says Arne Astrup, a doctor of medical science and the head of the university’s Department of Human Nutrition, who led the development of the new chocolate. Together with his colleagues, Astrup focuses on appetite, energy metabolism and preventing and treating obesity.

Pleasure without pain
Denmark’s Crown Prince, Frederik, and Sweden’s Crown Princess, Victoria, have both tasted the newly developed dark chocolate. (Photo: University of Copenhagen)

For a long time, the research group has played with the idea of using dark chocolate in treating obesity, as the chocolate contains caffeine, a methyl xanthine alkaloid; stearic acid, which is a saturated fatty acid; and the caffeine-like substance theobromine.

Theobromine stimulates the central nervous system as it releases adrenalin, which is known for increasing the body’s metabolism, especially if it is mixed with chilli and green tea.

“To get the chocolate to give you a better feeling of satiation we add some linseed,” says Astrup. “Linseed also binds some of the fat in the food in the intestine. Calcium, which is found in chocolate, does the same. We believe that mixing linseed with the chocolate prevents the body from absorbing this fat.”

We started to work on the chocolate because I was fascinated by the fact that dark chocolate satiates so well. Why should a liking for chocolate be so unhealthy?
Arne Astrup

The university has patented the use of linseed in chocolate as a source of satiation and as a fat-binder.

Desserts and other sweet foods for obese and diabetic patients often contain substances that can have negative side effects if eaten in large quantities, but this does not apply to the ingredients in the new dark chocolate.

One of the chocolate’s obvious advantages is that its satiating and slimming ingredients are completely harmless.

Facts

Theobromin makes chocolate toxic for dogs and cats, as they cannot separate the substance from the chocolate.

“There’s nothing special about chilli, linseed and calcium,” says the researcher. “As a consumer you don’t have to worry about undesired side-effects. In fact, chilli makes the chocolate more delicious by adding a good and long aftertaste, while the linseeds give it a nutty aroma.”

Testing the claims

Taste is especially important in ensuring consumer acceptance of the new chocolate, and the researchers have worked with the cooks and nutritionists in the department’s kitchen to tweak the chocolate’s taste.

“We’ve experimented with various forms of the chocolate and we’ve ended up with a handful of different types,” says Astrup. “Now we’ll start testing them to see if they have the desired effects on the body.”

Facts

The fatty acid stearic acid (also known as octadecanoic acid) has the chemical formula CH3(CH2)16COOH. It is a white, crystalline solid with a melting point of 69-71 degrees Celsius. Stearic acid, which has a slightly tallowy smell, is found as an ester with glycerol in vegetable and animal fats and oils. The ester is formed through enzymatic fat hydrolysis and is used in the same way as stearin.

The researchers will give the test persons ordinary dark chocolate one day and the newly developed chocolate the next, and the test persons’ calorie uptake, metabolism and calorie loss through defecation will be measured.

“Then we can see whether our chocolate actually has the beneficial effects on the body that we expect,” says Astrup.

Creative inspiration to chocolate-makers

Studies indicate that 90 percent of the stearic acid in food is absorbed, while ten percent is excreted through defecation. Increasing this calorie loss to 30 percent by adding calcium and linseed could be beneficial.

“Then you might be able to argue that the new chocolate could be used as a way of slimming,” says the researcher.

He adds that he and other researchers have not developed the new chocolate in order to make money – they simply hope their research will inspire the chocolate industry and perhaps collaborate with the researchers, so as many people as possible can devour chocolate that satiates and slims rather than leaves fat behind.

Read the article in Danish at videnskab.dk

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Translated by
Michael de Laine

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