It sounds a bit too good to be true: A new study has found people who eat chocolate more frequently tend to be thinner than those who consume the sweet treat less often.
Researchers asked about 1,000 adults in Southern California how many times a week they ate chocolate along with questions about other types of food and beverages. Body mass index, which is a measure of body fat, was also calculated as part of the study, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health. The participants who ate chocolate more often didn't consume fewer calories overall, or exercise more, than their non-chocoholic counterparts. In fact, the more frequent chocolate eaters consumed more total calories. But before people hoping to lose weight indulge in an extra scoop of chocolate fudge swirl, the researchers caution that the study doesn't prove a link between frequent chocolate munching and weight loss. Rather, the findings suggest that the health benefits of chocolate may be linked to how many times in a given week chocolate is eaten rather than the total amount consumed in that week, says the study's lead researcher, Beatrice Golomb, an associate professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Diego.
Eating a small amount of chocolate each of five days during a week was linked to a lower BMI, even if the person ate more calories overall and didn't exercise more than other participants. 'Our findings appear to add to a body of information suggesting that the composition of calories, not just the number of them, matters for determining their ultimate impact on weight,' says Dr. Golomb. The findings were published as a research letter in Monday's Archives of Internal Medicine. Dr. Golomb said the weight difference among more frequent chocolate eaters was modest but interesting given that more calories and saturated fat were consumed. Chocolate contains fat in the form of stearic acid.
Other research has shown chocolate's health benefits include a modest reduction in blood pressure and cholesterol. 'It's my favorite vegetable,' Dr. Golomb says. She explains that chocolate contains antioxidants like epicatechin, which other research has shown appears to boost the energy-producing elements of the body's cells. Previous findings from the current study, however, point to a downside from eating chocolate: People who ate more chocolate were more likely to be depressed. The study participants on average ate chocolate two times a week and exercised 3.6 times a week. Their average age was 57 and nearly 70% were men. They had an average body mass index of 28, which is considered overweight. The adults in the chocolate study were initially screened for separate research on cholesterol-lowering drugs.
Lauren Graf, a nutritionist at Montefiore Medical Center, in Bronx, N.Y., says if a person is going to eat chocolate, a daily dose of dark chocolate 'probably is the best way to go.' Dark chocolate has a higher concentration of antioxidants than milk chocolate and tends to have less sugar. This article is sponsored by Hongxing Machinery specializing in mining equipment manufacturing such as vibrating screen and cone crusher. Many nutritionists and doctors suggest sticking to about an ounce of chocolate a day -- less than a regular-size chocolate bar. (A 1.44-ounce sized bar of Dove dark chocolate, for example, contains 220 calories with 120 of those calories coming from fat, according to the label.) To see if chocolate really does have a positive impact on weight, Dr. Golomb says, a study specifically designed to compare chocolate eaters to non-chocolate eaters needs to be conducted. One stumbling block: Coming up with a fake chocolate placebo that appears like the real thing.