March 27, 2012
Can Eating Chocolate Actually Make Your Thinner?
It has long been known that regular exercise helps people stay fit and trim, and now, new research, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, is also suggesting that a regular dose of chocolate can help them get leaner as well.
The study, led by Beatrice Golomb, at the University of California, San Diego, found that those who exercised and ate chocolate regularly tended to have a lower body mass index (BMI) than those who ate less of the cacao-derived sweet.
The survey results, based on a population of nearly 1,000 adults, helps reinforce the notion that chocolate has heart healthy benefits, despite its high calorie, sugar and fat content.
People in the survey, whose ages ranged from 20 to 85, reported eating chocolate an average of twice per week and exercising an average of 3.6 times per week. Golomb said it appears that what matters most is how often you eat chocolate, rather than how much you eat.
The researchers took several factors into account and the link remained. They also noted there is only a relatively small chance that their findings can be explained by coincidence alone.
Normal BMI is typically between 18.5 and 24.9 depending on your height/weight ratio. People with BMI over 25 are considered overweight.
“Adults who consumed chocolate more frequently had a lower BMI than those who consumed chocolate less often,” said Golomb.
She said, however, that more research is needed and perhaps a randomized clinical trial of chocolate´s metabolic benefits.
But this isn´t the first evidence that has surfaced that chocolate may in fact be healthy for us.
Other studies have claimed that chocolate may be good for the heart. And consumption of certain types of chocolate has been linked to lowering blood pressure, insulin sensitivity and cholesterol levels. And dark chocolate provides even more benefits as its antioxidants help destroy unstable chemicals in our bodies that can damage cells and cell growth.
Golomb and colleagues believe that antioxidant compounds, called catechins, can improve lean muscle mass and reduce weight, as has been seen in rodents in a previous study.
Epicatechin, found in dark chocolate, was fed to mice for 15 days and the researchers noticed improved exercise performance and observable changes in the mice´ muscle composition. They said clinical trials are needed in humans to see if these positive results can be observed there as well.
While the researchers stopped short of establishing a reasonable or beneficial limit for chocolate intake, experts urge moderation.
“Before you start eating a chocolate bar a day to keep the doctor away, remember that a chocolate bar can contain over 200 calories which mostly come from saturated fats and sugar,” Nancy Copperman, director of Public Health Initiatives at the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System in New York, told Nicole Ostrow at Bloomberg News.
“Consider limiting your chocolate fix to a one ounce (28 grams) portion of dark chocolate or adding cocoa powder which is very low in fat to your food once a day,” added Copperman, who was not involved in the study.
Golomb said the team´s findings were even more favorable than they had surmised.
“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,” she noted “In the case of chocolate, this is good news -- both for those who have a regular chocolate habit, and those who may wish to start one.”
Based on previous research, Copperman said it is okay to consume about 1 ounce of dark chocolate a day. People can also sprinkle cocoa powder on foods like oatmeal and fruit to get the benefits of chocolate without the fat, she added.
Golomb´s survey was funded by the US National Institutes of Health.