Beatrice Golomb, MD, PhD, at the University of California, wrote in a letter published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, claiming those who ate chocolate about five times a week had a body mass index one point lower than those who didn’t indulge.
For someone who weighs 120 pounds and is 5 feet tall, one BMI point translates to about 5 pounds, Golomb said in a Bloomberg telephone interview.
The results were based on a survey of a total of 1018 men and women aged 20 to 85 years from San Diego, California, all without known cardiovascular disease.
Of those, 972 had their BMI (measure of body fat based on height and weight) calculated and 975 filled out a food frequency questionnaire.
Researchers believe that despite chocolate’s high calorie content, chocolate contains ingredients that may favor weight loss rather than fat synthesis. “And it appears it is how often you eat chocolate that is important, rather than how much of it you eat.”
According to the researchers, there is only one chance in a hundred that their findings could be explained by chance alone.
Golomb, an associate professor of family and preventive medicine at the university’s School of Medicine, suggested a controlled study was needed to support the results, involving control groups for people who do and don’t eat chocolate, and some controls for diet and exercise.
The report was the first to associate chocolate consumption with lower body mass index, but doesn’t indicate how much or what type of chocolate was eaten, nor does it control for diet and exercise.
“While not definitive, the survey does pose a very interesting question that researchers can jump on,” said Nancy Copperman, director of Public Health Initiatives at North Shore Health System in Great Neck, New York, who wasn’t involved with the survey.
“Lowering of BMI wasn’t related to how much they ate but frequency.”
Copperman added that about 1 ounce of dark chocolate, the equivalent of one Dove dark chocolate square, is fine to consume each day. People can also sprinkle cocoa powder on foods like oatmeal or fruit to get benefits of chocolate without the fat, she said.
“If you’re eating a couple of squares of chocolate a number of times a week, it’s probably just fine,” Golomb said.
“Typically chocolate is consumed as a sweet and should have adverse applications for body mass index. In fact, it’s the converse,” according to the survey.
The survey was funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services External, a national medical research agency.
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