A small study links the type of bacteria living in the gut to a desire for chocolate. We all have trillions of bacteria living in our digestive tracts, but people who crave daily chocolate show signs of having different colonies of bacteria than people who are immune to the craving of chocolate.
The co-author of the study, Sunil Kochhar, is in charge of metabolism research at the Nestle Research Center in Lausanne, Switzerland. He compared the blood and urine of 11 men who did not eat chocolate (it took 1 year to find such men!) and 11 similar men who ate chocolate daily. They were all healthy, not obese, and were fed the same food for 5 days. Researchers examined the metabolic byproducts in their blood and urine and found that a dozen substances were significantly different between the two groups. For example, the amino acid glycine was higher in chocolate lovers, while taurine (common in energy drinks) was higher in people who did not like chocolate. Chocolate lovers also had lower levels of the “bad” cholesterol known as LDL. The specific substances that were different in the two groups are known to be linked to different types of bacteria, Kochhar said.
The main question is if the bacteria cause the craving, or if early in life people’s diets changed the bacteria, which then helped to reinforce their food choices.
We know that intestinal bacteria change when people lose weight, said Dr. Sam Klein, an obesity expert and professor of medicine at Washington University in St. Louis. Bacteria interacts with what you eat so it makes sense that there is a connection between those microbes and desires for certain foods.
How gut bacteria affect people is a hot field of scientific research. It could eventually lead to treating some types of obesity by changing the composition of the trillions of bacteria inhabiting the intestine and stomach. Kochhar says, “If we understand the relationship, then we can find ways to nudge it in the right direction.” This study can be found in the peer-reviewed Journal of Proteome Research.