A survey of about 1,000 Americans that suggests eating chocolate may help people get leaner deserves to be followed up with more study, according to a California-based researcher.
The survey found that those who ate chocolate about five times a week had a body mass index one point lower than those who didn’t indulge, Beatrice Golomb, at the University of California, San Diego, wrote in a letter published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
For someone who weighs 120 pounds and is 5 feet tall, one BMI point translates to about 5 pounds, Golomb said in a telephone interview. The report, the first to tie chocolate consumption to lower body mass index, doesn’t say how much or what type of chocolate was eaten, nor does it control for diet and exercise, opening the way for more research.
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- LIJ 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.”
The survey results suggest researchers looking at diet should consider the types, rather than number, of calories people are eating as foods such as cinnamon and chocolate are found to provide possible health benefits, said Golomb, an associate professor of family and preventive medicine at the university’s School of Medicine.
“Chocolate has already shown favorable associations to heart disease, all-cause mortality, blood pressure and even cavities,” she said “If you’re eating a couple of squares of chocolate a number of times a week, it’s probably just fine. 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 researcher surveyed more than 1,000 men and women who didn’t have any known heart disease or diabetes. Of those, 972 had their BMI calculated and 975 filled out a food frequency questionnaire. The relationship between chocolate and body mass index was true, even though those who ate chocolate actually consumed more calories, Golomb’s letter said.
Golomb said a study where some people eat chocolate and some don’t that controls for diet and exercise is needed to shore up the suggested link.
Based on previous research, Copperman said about 1 ounce of dark chocolate, the equivalent of one McLean, Virginia-based Mars Inc.’s 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.
The survey was funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
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