Joshua Lambert, associate professor of food science at Pennsylvania State University in State College, said mice fed cocoa with a high-fat diet experienced less obesity-related inflammation than mice fed the same high-fat diet with no cocoa.
Lambert said the mice ate the human equivalent of 10 tablespoons of cocoa powder -- about four or five cups of hot cocoa -- during a 10-week period.
"What surprised me was the magnitude of the effect," Lambert said in a statement. "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."
Lambert and colleagues said several indicators of inflammation and diabetes in the mice fed the cocoa supplement were much lower than the mice that were fed the high-fat diet without the cocoa powder and almost identical to the ones fed a low-fat diet in the control group.
The cocoa powder supplement also reduced the levels of liver triglycerides in mice by a little more than 32 percent. Elevated triglyceride levels are a sign of fatty liver disease and related to inflammation and diabetes, the study said.
The findings were published online in the European Journal of Nutrition.