Covering the very latest in nutritional research, this week’s Nutrition News brings the exciting news that starting the day with chocolate could actually bring some welcome, albeit unexpected, health benefits.

Read the article in full here.

Starting the day with chocolate could have unexpected benefits

Despite being a favourite food for many, chocolate is rarely considered “healthy” but a recent study suggests there may well be a time and a place for chocolate, beyond that of an occasional treat.

The research from Brigham and the University of Murcia, Spain, as reported by Science Daily, has suggested that a small amount of milk chocolate in the morning amongst post-menopausal women may have some strong health benefits, including weight management in burning body fat and reducing blood sugar levels. The trial involved 19 post-menopausal women, which were split into three groups monitoring the effects of consuming 100g milk chocolate in the morning (within an hour of waking up), consuming chocolate at night (within an hour of going to sleep) and participants where no chocolate was eaten.

Expecting to see weight gain in the chocolate eating groups, researchers were surprised to see no weight gain in either the morning or night time group. Instead, fat burning was observed and lower blood sugar levels amongst the morning group. The night group did not see the same benefits but did have an impact on rest the next morning and exercise metabolism.

Of course, a research pool of just 19 test subjects of one gender and age group is not enough to draw solid conclusions but it does give further weight to previous studies that suggest chocolate may have an effect on the reduction of hunger and appetite.

Low omega 3 index shown to be detrimental to good health

Omega 3 is known to be important for maintain a healthy lifestyle but a recent study suggests that a low omega 3 index is just as high a risk factor for ill health as smoking.

The research paper, discussed in EurekAlert, evaluated cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors and found smoking and low omega 3 index to be of equal risk. The omega 3 index is a measure of omega 3 status, which is based on the amount of EPA and DHA in red blood cell membranes. The optimal level is 8% or higher, with an average level being between 4%-8%. However, most American’s are below 4%, according to the paper, which puts them at serious risk.

Speaking of the study, lead researcher Michael McBurney, PhD, FCNS-SCN, said, “In the final combined model, smoking and the Omega-3 Index seem to be the most easily modified risk factors. Being a current smoker (at age 65) is predicted to subtract more than four years of life (compared with not smoking), a life shortening equivalent to having a low vs. a high Omega-3 Index”.

The findings were derived from the analysis of data pulled from the Framingham study, one of the longest running studies in the world. While the conclusions are based on observational data, the results are interesting and highlight the importance of fish oils in the diet.

Artificial sweeteners and gut health

The debate over which is better (or worse) for health between refined sugar and artificial sweeteners has been hotly contested for many years. A study has recently been published, touted as the first of its kind, that suggests that artificial sweeteners could cause significant damage to gut health.

The study, which has been reported on by NutraIngredients, looked at the effects of the artificial sweeteners saccharin, sucralose, and aspartame on the gut bacteria Escherichia coli (E. coli) and Enterococcus faecalis (E. faecalis). The researchers measured the pathogenicity and changes in interactions between the gut bacteria and Caco-2 cells in vitro studies and found examples where the sweeteners increased the ability of bacteria to form a biofilm. This can be more likely to secrete toxins and express disease-causing molecules, leading to intestine damage and infection.

While the findings are cause for concern, it is worth noting that this study was not conducted in a real-world scenario with human test subjects, therefore industry groups relating to sweeteners contest the findings.

Share your thoughts

Agree with the findings in this week’s Nutrition News? Share your thoughts with us on  Facebook and Twitter.

Alison Astill-Smith author Alison is the Founder of Metabolics who writes about Metabolics updates, events and natural healthcare. Her experience and passion for natural supplements and healthcare comes from her years of experience as a practising osteopath, having founded Metabolics in her search for high quality, natural products in her own work. Alison has been a qualified and practising Osteopath since 1981 and regularly gives seminars on a range of healthcare subjects to the wider practitioner community helping share her knowledge and experience.