Study Links Moderate Chocolate Consumption With Lower BMI

Brett Smith for – Your Universe Online
Choco-holics rejoice! According to a new study in the journal Nutrition, higher consumption of chocolate is associated with a lower amount of body fat and less abdominal fat, regardless of regular physical activity, diet and other factors.
The study was performed using data from the Healthy Lifestyle in Europe by Nutrition in Adolescence (HELENA) study, which included almost 1500 Europeans between the ages of 12 and 17. Study researchers found that higher levels of chocolate consumption was related to lower fat levels as determined through body mass index and waist circumference.
Study author Magdalena Cuenca-García noted that although chocolate is often rich in sugars and saturated fats, “recent studies in adults suggest chocolate consumption is associated with a lower risk of cardiometabolic disorders.”
She added that chocolate is rich in flavonoids, which “have important antioxidant, antithrombotic, anti-inflammatory and antihypertensive effects and can help prevent ischemic heart disease.”
In the study, researchers from the University of Granada in Spain said they wanted to see the effect of chocolate consumption in adolescence, while controlling for confounding factors such as participant’s gender, age, sexual maturation, total energy intake, intake of saturated fats, fruit and vegetables, consumption of tea and coffee, and physical activity. The research team said their study is based on a large number of body measures, objective determinations of physical activity, detailed dietary records and controls for the possible effects of key variables.
In their conclusion, the study authors noted the biological effect of foods should not be evaluated just in terms of calories.
“The most recent epidemiologic research focuses on studying the relation between specific foods—both for their calorie content and for their components—and the risk factors for developing chronic illnesses, including overweight and obesity,” they wrote.
The Spanish team added their findings “are also important from a clinical perspective since they contribute to our understanding of the factors underlying the control and maintenance of optimal weight.
“In moderate quantities, chocolate can be good for you, as our study has shown,” they said. “But, undoubtedly, excessive consumption is prejudicial. As they say: you can have too much of a good thing.”
The Spanish team’s results echo those of a 2012 cross-sectional study conducted by University of California researchers that linked more frequent chocolate consumption to a lower body mass index in adults.
Published as a research letter in the Archives of Internal Medicine, that study included over 1,000 adults between the ages of 20 and 85 who said they eat chocolate twice a week on average and exercise an average of 3.6 times per week.
“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,” said study author Beatrice Golomb in a press release. “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.”