The internet is abuzz with news about research that touts chocolate as a good breakfast choice, as seen with the recent viral article Research Shows That Eating Chocolate Cake For Breakfast Is Good For The Brain And The Waistline.
Being partial to something sweet in the morning – I have often wished I had been born in Spain where hot chocolate and sweet buns are standard breakfast fare – I was delighted to have my habit sanctioned by science.
But I was also suspicious. It sounds too good to be true. It has all the makings of fake news, don’t you think?
We’re wrong. There is support for health benefits of chocolate and one study does mention it as part of breakfast, but nowhere is eating chocolate for breakfast actually promoted by science.
Let’s look a bit closer.
A Maine-Syracuse Longitudinal study published in the journal Appetite found that people who ate chocolate at least once a week performed better on multiple cognitive tasks compared to those who ate chocolate less frequently.
The study by researchers at the University of Maine, University of South Australia and Luxembourg Institute of Health tracked more than 1,000 people, ages 23-98, over 35 years.
The researchers hypothesized that regular intake of cocoa flavanols may be one of several mechanism explaining the cognitive benefits of chocolate, but the research results were not a hundred percent conclusive.
Here are the highlights of the study as reported in Appetite:
- Chocolate intake was positively associated with cognitive performance.
- The impact of chocolate on cognitive function is not well understood.
- Mechanisms may involve the action of cocoa flavanols and methylxanthines in chocolate.
Enjoying chocolate doesn’t only make your brain work better. The study also found that people who ate chocolate regularly had higher total and LDL cholesterol, lower glucose levels, and lower presence of hypertension and Type 2 diabetes.
A new study by Italian researchers links drinking flavanol-rich cocoa to improved memory, short-term cognitive function, protection against cognitive decline and restoring cognitive function after sleep deprivation.
So, overall chocolate is great for you, but should you eat chocolate cake for breakfast?
The claim that eating chocolate-rich food for breakfast is good for the waste line comes from an Israeli study in 2012 on the benefits of having a big breakfast, with that breakfast including some sweet treat. The premise of the study is that it’s not only what you eat, but when you eat – a concept referred to as calorie-timing, that affects body weight.
The idea is that starting the day with a big breakfast jump starts metabolic processes and keeps them high during the day. According to the study, by Daniela Jakubowicz of TAU’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine and the Diabetes Unit at Holon’s Wolfson Medical Center, those who eat their largest daily meal at breakfast are far more likely to lose weight and gain a slimmer waistline than those who eat a large dinner, reported The Times of Israel on the Tel Aviv University study.
The researchers divided 193 clinically obese, non-diabetic adults into two groups with identical daily calorie intake — 1,600 for men, 1,400 for women. Those in the first group ate a low-carbohydrate diet that included a small 300-calorie breakfast while members of the second cluster were given a 600-calorie breakfast high in protein and carbs, including a dessert.
Halfway through the 32-week trial, participants in both groups had lost an average of 33 pounds per person, but after that things changed. Those who enjoyed a large breakfast kept on losing weight while those in the other group regained weight.
The conclusion is that a full breakfast that includes a sweet dessert can contribute to weight loss success, because dieters are sated and experience less cravings, so they are able to keep up the weight loss regime.
It’s important to note that the diet entailed restricted calories. According to USDA guidelines, women need about 1,600 to 2,000 calories per day, the female participants only consumed 1,400 calories.
The bottom line:
We shouldn’t justify our urge for chocolate cake early in the morning with convenient interpretations of research results.