Timing of chocolate intake affects hunger, substrate oxidation, and microbiota: A randomized controlled trial

FASEB J. 2021 Jul;35(7):e21649. doi: 10.1096/fj.202002770RR.


Eating chocolate in the morning or in the evening/at night, may differentially affect energy balance and impact body weight due to changes in energy intake, substrate oxidation, microbiota (composition/function), and circadian-related variables. In a randomized controlled trial, postmenopausal females (n = 19) had 100 g of chocolate in the morning (MC), in the evening/at night (EC), or no chocolate (N) for 2 weeks and ate any other food ad libitum. Our results show that 14 days of chocolate intake did not increase body weight. Chocolate consumption decreased hunger and desire for sweets (P < .005), and reduced ad libitum energy intake by ~300 kcal/day during MC and ~150 kcal/day during EC (P = .01), but did not fully compensate for the extra energy contribution of chocolate (542 kcal/day). EC increased physical activity by +6.9%, heat dissipation after meals +1.3%, and carbohydrate oxidation by +35.3% (P < .05). MC reduced fasting glucose (4.4%) and waist circumference (-1.7%) and increased lipid oxidation (+25.6%). Principal component analyses showed that both timings of chocolate intake resulted in differential microbiota profiles and function (P < .05). Heat map of wrist temperature and sleep records showed that EC induced more regular timing of sleep episodes with lower variability of sleep onset among days than MC (60 min vs 78 min; P = .028). In conclusion, having chocolate in the morning or in the evening/night results in differential effects on hunger and appetite, substrate oxidation, fasting glucose, microbiota (composition and function), and sleep and temperature rhythms. Results highlight that the "when" we eat is a relevant factor to consider in energy balance and metabolism.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT03949803.

Keywords: chocolate; circadian; energy balance; glucose control; microbiota.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Appetite / drug effects*
  • Blood Glucose / analysis
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Carbohydrates / chemistry*
  • Chocolate / adverse effects*
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Energy Intake
  • Fasting
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hunger / drug effects*
  • Microbiota / drug effects*
  • Middle Aged
  • Postprandial Period
  • Time Factors


  • Blood Glucose
  • Carbohydrates

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT03949803