Can Chocolate Help Fight Metabolic Syndrome?

Got a sweet tooth and don’t know how to satisfy it? New research says chocolate is a good option.

We often hear chocolate is good for us, which can make a guilty pleasure a little less guilty. If you’re like me, the creeping thought that this is just an excuse to indulge is always in the back of your mind.

But recent research published in PLOS ONE shed some light on why chocolate is the perfect treat to choose.

What the research says:

  • Flavan-3-ols found in chocolate increased resting metabolic rate in mice.
  • A combination of flavan-3-ols performed better than one isolated flavan-3-ol.


The benefits of chocolate have been demonstrated in numerous clinical studies. The new study wanted to find out why it has these beneficial effects.

Chocolate – particularly the dark kind, which has more actual cocoa in it – improves a host of factors that are warning signs of metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome can lead to diseases like type 2 diabetes. Chocolate has been shown to improve several of the risk factors for metabolic syndrome, including hypertension, vascular endothelial dysfunction, dyslipidemia, and glucose intolerance.

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It has long been suspected that a host of nutrient chemicals called flavan-3-ols, which are abundant in chocolate, are responsible for these benefits. The researchers put that hypothesis to the test.

Study Design

The study design was pretty simple. Flavan-3-ols were extracted from cocoa and administered to mice on two different occasions. In one trial the researchers compared the flavan-3-ols to distilled water.

In the second trial they did the same thing, with one extra step. They also compared the flavon-3-ols and distilled water to epicatechin, which is one type of flavan-3-ol. They wanted to see if it made a difference if all the flavan-3-ols in chocolate were included.

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The flavan-3-ols enhanced resting metabolic rate when compared to the distilled water and to the epicatechin alone. These improvements were probably due to the activation of genes that help burn fat as a fuel. Whether these effects could also improve the body’s ability to produce energy or support healthier fuel utilization is still unknown, but we do know chocolate is effective.

“According to this research, chocolate might help boost your metabolic rate and even help fend off metabolic syndromes.”

Don’t worry if you don’t like chocolate or don’t want the sugar, since flavan-3-ols are present in tea as well as cocoa. They are also present in smaller quantities in many fruits, vegetables, and wine. It seems that cocoa contains a high quantity of flavan-3-ols, making it a good choice.

According to this research, chocolate might help boost your metabolic rate and even help fend off metabolic syndromes. For the most bang for your flavan-3-ol buck, look for chocolate that contains a high level of cocoa, particularly dark chocolate.


1. Yusuke Matsumura, et. al., “Enhancement of Energy Expenditure following a Single Oral Dose of Flavan-3-Ols Associated with an Increase in Catecholamine Secretion,” PLOS ONE 2014, 9(11)

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