As more research arrives concerning the advantages of unsweetened cocoa powder, we wouldn't be surprised should you raise the stock inside your pantry. Only one tablespoon of the powerhouse nutrient provides an ample quantity of magnesium, phosphorous, and potassium, together with smaller amounts of calcium and iron. It even contains a significant amount of protein. 

Investigators have previously revealed that unsweetened cocoa powder is an excellent dietary add-in (try it sticking to your lips!) because it contains polyphenols and flavanols, two powerful antioxidants. Polyphenols might help regulate metabolism to aid in weight loss and reduce chronic inflammation, while a diet full of flavanols can help lower blood pressure level. 

Now, this recent study published within the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry shows that cocoa powder may lessen the harshness of fatty liver disease. The findings also support previous research linking cocoa powder to weight loss. Non-alcohol related fatty liver disease is often associated with obesity, and other studies have already demonstrated that the polyphenols in cocoa can ameliorate obesity and many diseases associated with it. 

To better comprehend the effects of cocoa powder in the diet, scientists at Penn State measured certain biomarkers in obese mice that were fed high-fat meals. Why mice? Together with rats, they are preferred models for research since they're so genetically and physiologically similar to humans. 

The biomarkers that researchers tracked included changes in fatty liver disease, markers of oxidative stress, antioxidant levels, and cell damage. For individuals who don't know, oxidative stress is an imbalance between toxins and antioxidants in your body. Free radicals are highly reactive, oxygen-containing molecules that can cause cell damage. Antioxidants help to prevent that damage. 

Each day throughout the study, a few of the obese mice on high-fat diets were given 80 milligrams of cocoa powder for each gram of food. The mice remained on this diet for 10 weeks before researchers performed your final analysis of the data. 

Upon completing your research, scientists learned that the cocoa-consuming mice gained weight in a 22 percent lower rate than the mice that received no supplements. They also discovered that the mice on cocoa diets had lower spleen weights, suggesting that cocoa helped reduce spleen inflammation the result of a high-fat diet. The cocoa-fed mice experienced 57 percent less oxidative stress and 75 percent less DNA damage in liver cells as well. 

Understanding the Science Behind Cocoa Powder

While we all know the polyphenols and flavanols inside cocoa powder may help regulate metabolism, reduce inflammation, minimizing blood pressure, researchers continue to be unsure of exactly how these processes happen in your body. However, they believe that previous research from their lab may illuminate the solution. Apparently, the harmful chemicals in cocoa powder may inhibit the enzymes within the digestive tract that break up fats and carbohydrates. 

In effect, they theorize that the obese, cocoa-fed mice couldn't digest at least a few of the fat in their food. The fat might have just passed through their digestive systems without getting absorbed. According to the study authors, this same phenomenon may be true for humans, too. 

How to include More Unsweetened Cacao and Powered cocoa to your Diet

Fortunately, they used commercially-available powered cocoa during their study. Which means that you might be able to reap the same benefits by adding a certain amount of cocoa for your diet.