Sipping onto a hot cup of coffee not only gives an instant kick start to the day, but can also help control inflammation-related diseases, especially in obese.

According to the findings of a new animal study, obese mice that were fed cocoa in addition to a high-fat diet were less likely to experience obesity-related inflammation than mice taking in the same calories without the cocoa.

The study
For the purpose of the study, researchers at the Penn State University conducted their experiments on 126 male mice.

For 18 weeks, mice were either fed on low or high fat diet. 8 weeks into study, some mice in high fat diet group had their diets supplemented with 8 percent cocoa powder – human equivalent of 10 tablespoons of cocoa powder.

Researchers took blood and tissue samples of all mice at the end of the study period.

Findings revealed that plasma insulin levels in mice fed on cocoa was 27 percent lower as against those not supplemented with cocoa. In addition, levels of liver triglyceride, an indicator of fatty liver disease, were 32 percent less in mice eating cocoa.

The mice also saw a significant drop in the rate of body weight gain. Their increase in body weight was 15.8 lower than mice that were not fed cocoa.

“What surprised me was the magnitude of the effect,” said study’s lead researcher, Joshua Lambert, associate professor of food science at Penn State University. “There wasn’t as big of an effect on the body weight as we expected, but I was surprised at the dramatic reduction of inflammation and fatty liver disease.”

How cocoa cuts inflammation
Obesity-related inflammation is known to spur the prognosis of several diseases, including type 2 diabetes and fatty liver disease.

Firstly, researchers speculate that excess fat triggers a distress signal that causes immune cells to activate and cause inflammation. Herein, ingestion of cocoa reduces the precursors that act as a distress signal to initiate this inflammatory response.

Secondly, high fat intake interferes with the body’s ability to keep a bacterial component called endotoxin from entering the bloodstream through gaps in the digestive system – called the gut barrier function. The fat also inhibits the body’s ability to alert an immune response.

As cocoa has a low-calorie, low-fat and high-fiber content it helps improve gut barrier function.
More research is however required to identify why cocoa powder is effective in treating inflammation. Lambert hopes that the findings will help determine if the treatment is suitable for humans.

The findings of the study are reported online in the European Journal of Nutrition.

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