I have tried consigning chocolate to my list of forbidden foods in various efforts to shed pounds, like before my wedding gown fitting, or after babies. But I couldn't give it up for long - life without chocolate just seemed half-lived.
And now science suggests it's an unnecessary sacrifice. A study released this week in the Archives of Internal Medicine got my thoughts turning to chocolate Easter bunnies. Researchers from the University of California San Diego collected information on the chocolate consumption, health, exercise frequency, eating habits and body mass index (BMI) on over 970 adults ages 20 to 85.
And contrary to conventional dietary wisdom, they found that those who ate more chocolate weren't heavier. In fact, the subjects with a greater weekly chocolate consumption had lower body mass indices (BMIs) than those who indulged less often. And it wasn't because they were eating fewer total calories or working out like maniacs, the researchers accounted for that. The lower BMIs stood - even after the scientists checked the data against a number of potential confounders.
How could that be? Chocolate products are usually high in calories and fat - that's a given. Conventional dietary wisdom says that if you eat more calories, without exercising more to burn them off, you'll gain weight. So common sense tells me that if I eat more chocolate, I will plump up.
But common sense isn't so common, and there's nothing common about chocolate. "Food of the Gods" that it is, chocolate has been linked to a bevy of healthy properties, from providing a rich source of antioxidants, to positive correlations with better cholesterol and blood pressure levels, and lower risk of diabetes. And now it looks like this "essential nutrient" has calories that apparently don't behave like other calories.
The researchers speculate that, based on previous studies in rodents, the antioxidant compounds that are present in chocolate (catechins) might have a positive impact on certain metabolic factors at the cellular level, as well as muscular performance and lean muscle mass. They suggest a randomized trial of chocolate consumption may well be in order. Now there's a trial I could sink my teeth into. Chocolate bunnies beware. See our chocolate ratings for some tempting boxed chocolate choices.
Association between more frequent chocolate consumption and lower body mass index [Archives of Internal Medicine]