Chocolate lovers, you are in luck. A new study suggests that people who eat chocolate more frequently tend to have a lower a body mass index (BMI).
Published in this month's Archives of Internal Medicine, the study surveyed of over 1,000 American adults to analyze typical eating habits, including chocolate consumption.
"The researchers found that people who ate chocolate with greater frequency tended to eat more calories overall, including more saturated fat, than those who went light on the candy. But even so, chocolate lovers tended to have a lower body weight," Healthzone.ca's Genevra Pittman summarized.
"People have assumed that because chocolate comes with calories and it's typically eaten as a sweet, it would inherently be bad," lead researcher Dr. Beatrice Golomb from the University of California told Reuters Health.
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Golomb said that people who ate five servings of chocolate a week weighed 5 to 7 pounds less than those who didn't eat any. It should be noted, however, that the frequency of consumption, not the quantity, was liked to lower weight.
Even when the researchers factored in age, gender and frequency of exercise, the results still held up.
Golomb admits that she was expecting the metabolic benefits of chocolate to compensate for its calories, at least not enough to make a different in weight. However, it's too early to claim there's a direct cause-and-effect.
"This certainly does not provide support for eating large amounts of chocolate," Golomb says. "For those of us who do eat a little bit of chocolate regularly, perhaps any guilt associated with that might be qualified."
The study has its critics — as most nutritional studies do — with a range of explanations. Some suggest that people who are on a diet may reward themselves with frequent, yet small bites of chocolate. Others suggest that poor people, known to have worse health, eat less chocolate because of the cost. These are all just speculations, of course.
An editorial in The Guardian finds the study's publishing so close to Easter "suspiciously well timed."
For the record, the study did not receive funding from the chocolate industry. Instead, one might say it was driven by personal interest. "I joke that chocolate is my favourite vegetable," Golomb told CBC News.
Golomb hopes to compare the BMI effects of milk chocolate and dark chocolate next.