(RxWiki News) Go ahead and give your sweetheart that box of chocolates. Turns out, it may not add to the waistline after all. A couple pieces a week might even be good for you.
A new study has revealed that eating a couple pieces of chocolate each week is actually associated with a lower body mass index. This doesn't mean that chocolate makes you thin - but it may mean that chocolate plays a part in preventing its calories from turning into fat.
"Indulge in a piece of chocolate a couple days a week."
Lead author Beatrice Golomb, M.D., Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Diego, and her associates wanted to find out whether eating small amounts of chocolate might actually not affect a person's weight.
Their theory was that the benefits of eating chocolate for a body's metabolism might actually offset the calories enough to prevent the chocolate from turning into fat in the person. For example, chocolate contains antioxidants and past studies have shown it may contribute to a healthy effect on blood pressure and LDL cholesterol levels.
Golomb and her colleagues therefore took height and weight measurements of 1017 adult men and women from San Diego and then studied their diets. The participants ranged in age from 20 to 85, with an average age of 57.
The participants were free of cardiovascular disease and diabetes and did not have abnormal cholesterol levels. Of the total, 975 actually completed the diet questionnaire.
The researchers found that those who ate chocolate more days out of the week - twice a week on average - actually had a lower body mass index than those who didn't have much chocolate.
This was true even though the chocolate eaters were consuming more calories and didn't exercise any more than those who ate less chocolate.
"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," Golomb said. "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."
The effects were not very large, but they were significant by statistical standards to say that the association between the chocolate consumption and lower BMI was more than coincidence.
The researchers accounted for the participants fruit and vegetable intake and saturated fat intake. Though there was an association between fruit and vegetable consumption and a lower body mass index, the amount of fruits and vegetables eaten did not have a relation to the amount of chocolate a person ate.
Golomb's team did find a relation between the amount of saturated fats people ate and chocolate intake; saturated fat intake was associated with a higher level of BMI, so they adjusted their findings for this factor. But the lower BMI association with chocolate consumption existed even when they didn't adjust for this.
Their conclusion: a little bit of chocolate might be a worthwhile treat, in moderation, a couple times a week.
The study appeared online March 26 in the Archives of Internal Medicine. The research was funded by a grant from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health and by the University of California, San Diego General Clinical Research Center. The researchers reported no financial disclosures.