Chocoholics Anonymous

It probably will not come as a surprise that scientific research funded by chocolate makers Nestlé has demonstrated a link between our love of chocolate and a specific chemical signature programmed into our metabolism. The signature reads “chocolate lover” in some people and indifference to the popular sweet in others, the researchers say.

Sunil Kochhar of the Nestlé Research Center in Switzerland, working with Jeremy Nicholson of Imperial College London and their colleagues, studied 11 men who classified themselves as “chocolate desiring” and 11 volunteers who were “chocolate indifferent”. Women were not included in this initial study because their metabolic rate is affected by their menstrual cycle, but the team is designing a follow-up experiment to determine if there is a gender-specific response to chocolate.

In a controlled clinical study, each subject ate chocolate or a “placebo” over a five-day period and the team took blood and urine samples periodically for analysis by proton NMR spectroscopy. This sophisticated analytical technique can quickly detect the biomarkers associated with particular metabolic patterns.

The “chocolate lovers” revealed a metabolic profile involving low levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (so-called “bad” cholesterol) and marginally elevated levels of albumin, a beneficial protein, the researchers found. This profile was expressed even when the chocolate lovers did not actually eat chocolate, the researchers note. The team also demonstrated that gut microbial activity was very different between chocolate lovers and those indifferent to it. This is the first example of what the team refers to as a “nutrimetabonomic” approach in which spectroscopically-generated metabolic patterns are correlated with an individual’s dietary preference.

“Our study shows that food preferences, including chocolate, might be programmed or imprinted into our metabolic system in such a way that the body becomes attuned to a particular diet,” explains Kochhar. “We know that some people can eat a diet that is high in steak and carbohydrates and generally remain healthy, while the same food in others is unhealthy,” he explains. He points out that knowing your personal metabolic profile could help you optimize your diet for health.

“Nutrimetabonomics appears as a promising approach for the classification of dietary responses in populations and personalized nutritional management,” the researchers conclude. It is not yet clear whether chocolate lovers with the “wrong” metabolic profile could sate their desire for chocolate and optimize their diet at the same time. Maybe a trawl through Nestlé’s patents pending will reveal new healthy chocolate products heading for the supermarket shelves. As a chocolate addict of unknown metabolic profile, I await developments with tongue firmly in cheek.

Research Blogging IconRezzi, S., Ramadan, Z., Martin, F., Fay, L., van Bladeren, P., Lindon, J., Nicholson, J., & Kochhar, S. (2007). Human Metabolic Phenotypes Link Directly to Specific Dietary Preferences in Healthy Individuals Journal of Proteome Research, 6 (11), 4469-4477 DOI: 10.1021/pr070431h

Author: David Bradley

Post by David Bradley Science Writer. You can get in touch with David via email or check out his CV on the site.

8 thoughts on “Chocoholics Anonymous”

  1. That makes sense. I like chocolate, but wouldn’t call myself a “chocolate lover”. I can often take or leave the treat. But my wife cannot. I wonder at what age we become programmed one way or the other.

  2. Yeah, I wonder. If it’s there I’ll eat it, but I don’t really seek it out. I know someone who’s cravings for chocolate declined after the menopause, hinting at a hormonal connection, for her, at least.

  3. omg i love chocolate i actually have written a book with drawings quizzez facts and much much more all on chocolate i think i may marry it some day. lol jk. but i have 2 admit it is the best thing known 2 man

  4. I work with some one that is addicted to chocolate and she doesnt want to admit she has a problem 🙂 what should we do????

  5. You’re kidding right? Is her “addiction” causing her serious health issues, interfering with her everyday life, having a detrimental impact on family and friends? No? Maybe just leave her to enjoy her choc, then.

  6. I never ate chocolate much until the age of 12 when I ate it with a group of friends. We had a king size block each. I felt so sick yet it was soo nice. I always crave it now. So yeah I do agree with this article

  7. I am a total chocoholic! I hate it! I used to be able to stay away from it If I didn’t have any in the house, but if it was there it would’t be for long because I wouldn’t be able to resist eating it!

    But now I’ve gotten to the stage where If I’m craving chocolate I NEED it. nothing else will satisfy me, and if I try to eat anything else I just keep eating and eating till I’m sick because I don’t feel full till I’ve satisfied the urge! It’s frustraiting and depressing, though I’m not sure if I'[m feeling that way because of some kind of withdrawl or because I am not satisfying my craving?

    so I buy chocolate (and chocolaty food, like coco pops, chocolate cake, or chocolate spread) to stop myself from over-eating, but when I have it I find it so hard not to just eat it all in one sitting that I keep having to buy more! almost daily!

    My interest in normal food has dwindled to the piont where I have to remind myself to eat. there are many days where I get to ten aclock at night and realise all I’ve had that day was a bowl of coco-pops and a snickers!

    I’m a little overwait, not by much, my BMI is slighty high and my dress size is 12-14. My wait remains constant at that leval I don’t really gain or loose any! but my body doesn’t get the nutrients it needs from a chocolate based diet! My health dwindled because of that and so now I’m taking all sorts of food suppliments to counter it!

    So here I am; stable wait, stable health. but unable to kick the chocolate! I wan’t to get help but there doesn’t seem to be support for it the way there is for alcoholism.

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