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Study probes chocolate cravings

12th October 2007

An industry-backed study has found a possible link between a craving for chocolate and the bacteria which live in the human intestine.

Chocolates

The study, sponsored by Swiss chocolate manufacturers Nestle and published in the peer-reviewed journal Proteome Research, also pointed to possible new directions in research into new treatments for obesity, according to co-author Sunil Kochar.

It studied the by-products of metabolism in 11 men who had never eaten chocolate and compared them with a group which ate chocolate daily.

They found higher levels of the amino acid glycine in the chocolate eaters, and more taurine (a substance found in energy drinks) in the non-chocolate-eaters.

The chocolate-eating group had lower levels of 'bad' cholesterol (LDL).

All participants in the study were non-obese, healthy males, who were fed the same food for the five days prior to undergoing testing of blood samples and urine.

Kochar said the levels of several of the specific substances that were different in the two groups are known to be linked to different types of bacteria, which live in the gut.

However, it was unclear whether the bacteria caused the craving, or if people's diets changed the bacteria, which then reinforced food choices.

Intestinal flora, which live in their millions in everyone's gut, have been shown to register changes when people lose weight, according to obesity expert Sam Klein of Washington University in St. Louis.

Klein said a link between the intestinal bacteria and people's cravings for certain food was plausible.

But Richard Bergman at the University of Southern California School of Medicine expressed concerns about the accuracy of the initial division of the men into groups that wanted chocolate or were indifferent to it.

Kochhar said further research was needed fully to understand the relationship between dietary choices and intestinal flora.

He said such research could underpin new forms of treatment through the manipulation of the bacterial species living in the gut.

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