A new study on a small group of women has found that eating a few ounces of chocolate in the morning can lower blood sugar and help your body burn fat, and does not lead to weight gain. Before you grab the candy bar, it's important to note that it's a small amount of chocolate eaten by itself can have major health benefits. That's the findings of a study called "Starting the day off with chocolate could have unexpected benefits." Researchers in Boston and Spain, working together, found that eating a concentrated amount of chocolate during a narrow window of time in the morning may help the body burn fat and decrease blood sugar levels.

Researchers from Brigham Women's Hospital conducted the study in collaboration with investigators at the University of Murcia in Spain. They gave 19 postmenopausal women 100g (about 3.5 ounces)  of chocolate in the morning, within an hour of waking up, or at night. within an hour of going to bed, and compared weight gain and other health measures.

Here's what the chocolate sleuths found:

  • Eating chocolate, either in the morning or nighttime, did not lead to weight gain;
  • Morning or in evening chocolate consumption "can influence hunger and appetite, microbiota composition, sleep and more"
  • Eating chocolate in the morning hours could help to burn fat and reduce blood glucose
  • Evening/night chocolate altered next-morning resting and exercise metabolism.

"Our findings highlight that not only 'what' but also 'when' we eat can impact physiological mechanisms involved in the regulation of body weight," said Scheer.

"Our volunteers did not gain weight despite increasing caloric intake. Our results show that chocolate reduced ad libitum energy intake, consistent with the observed reduction in hunger, appetite, and the desire for sweets shown in previous studies," said Garaulet.

The timing of chocolate matters, the study found

"Food timing is a relevant factor in weight control," according to the researchers. "We and others have shown that not only 'what' but also “when” we eat can impact obesity and weight loss. Several biological mechanisms could explain the causal relationships between late eating and adverse cardiometabolic health," they wrote.

The benefits of chocolate are the same as those of green tea, due to EGCG

And unlike most chocolate studies, which tout the benefits of dark chocolate, this one was done with milk chocolate. If you're plant-based or trying to be, you may want to try this with dark chocolate, which is made with cocoa butter (not dairy) and contains almost as many polyphenols as green tea.

If you're eager to try, it, you may want to do it with dark chocolate, which contains six to seven times the amount of a powerful polyphenol called EGCG (Epigallocatechin Gallate) as milk chocolate does. EGCG has been shown in studies to help your body burn fat by acting on the body's sensors that let it know whether it's full or empty.

This pathway, called AMPK, is like the fuel gauge. When AMPK senses that "fuel is low," it switches to fat-burning mode, according to Dr. Jason Fung, a leading researcher, and nephrologist. But that isn't mentioned in this new study, which found that chocolate in the morning helps you burn fat and keep blood sugar low. The study found that it works, but did not explore why.

The study was led by Frank A. J. L. Scheer, Ph.D., MSc, Neuroscientist and Marta Garaulet, Ph.D., both of the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders, Departments of Medicine and Neurology, Brigham and Women's Hospital. Drs. Scheer and Garaulet are co-corresponding authors of a new paper published in The FASEB Journal.

Furthermore, the authors wrote, "this study does not allow us to distinguish if the discovered effects are a consequence of the rewarding effect of chocolate, specific chocolate components such as epicatechins, or the high energy and high sugar content of chocolate (nutritional composition)." They added: Further studies are needed to distinguish these aspects. It would be also interesting to conduct deep-phenotyping studies into the mechanisms underlying the effects of chocolate on glucose metabolism.

 Bottom Line: Eat a small amount of chocolate in the morning by itself to lower blood sugar and burn fat, but make it dark chocolate.

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