MONDAY, March 26 (HealthDay News) -- Here's a sweet surprise for
chocoholics: A new study finds that people who eat chocolate
regularly are somewhat skinnier than folks who don't indulge their
The findings don't prove that chowing down on chocolate will
melt off your excess pounds. It's possible that another factor is
responsible for the modest difference in body mass, or it might be
a statistical fluke.
But for now, study lead author Dr. Beatrice Golomb said the
findings "reduce any possible guilt that might come with chocolate
consumption." Golomb, an associate professor at the University of
California, San Diego, said she hopes to better understand what's
going on through future research.
As foods go, chocolate is a hard one to figure out. It includes
antioxidants, substances that counteract damaging agents in the
body. And consumption of chocolate has been linked in other studies
to a variety of positive health effects from lower blood pressure
to better cholesterol levels. On the other hand, chocolate can come
with plenty of calories and fat.
In the new study, Golomb and colleagues reviewed food
questionnaires filled out by nearly 1,000 people who were asked how
often they ate chocolate. Their average age was 57, and 68 percent
The researchers then tried to find any connections between
chocolate consumption and the body mass index (BMI) of the
participants. BMI is a calculation based on height and weight that
is used to determine underweight, overweight and obesity in
Participants' average BMI was 28 -- overweight but not obese. On
average, they ate chocolate twice a week and exercised between
three and four times a week.
The study found that those who ate chocolate the most often had
lower BMIs than the others, even when the researchers adjusted
their statistics so they wouldn't be thrown off by factors such as
age, gender, education and fruit and vegetable consumption.
For the typical person, the difference between frequently eating
or infrequently eating chocolate could account for a 5- to 7-pound
difference, Golomb said.
The findings "certainly weren't explained by the chocolate
eaters eating fewer calories. They ate more calories and didn't
exercise any more," she said.
It's not clear, however, what kinds of chocolate the
participants ate, although most would probably have interpreted the
question as asking about candy, Golomb said. Milk chocolate is
fattier than dark chocolate.
Golomb cautioned that the study does not say that chocolate
consumption will help people lose weight.
"It is not a siren call to go out and eat 20 pounds of chocolate a day," she said.
However, the study suggests that diet composition may influence
the body's metabolic processes, and therefore BMI, she said.
So why would chocolate fanciers be thinner than others? Dr.
Daniela Jakubowicz, a professor at Tel Aviv University in Israel
who has studied chocolate, said previous research has shown that
diets that force people to avoid sweets actually make them more
drawn to them. In her own research, she found that people were
actually better able to tolerate a diet when they ate
Golomb said that, ideally, future research will randomly assign
some people to eat chocolate and others to avoid it. But that may
be a challenge, especially if some participants refuse to go
"We have a few pesky details to iron out," she said.
The study, funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, was
published online March 26 in
Archives of Internal Medicine.
For more about
nutrition, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.