The Study Said Chocolate Will Make Me Thin

The HealthGal Health Guide
  • Yes, that's exactly what my client said to me after she got on the scale, which showed a five pound weight gain. In fact, she has quite an elaborate interpretation of this study that hit the airwaves and internet recently. She said that based on the various things she had read and heard, she knew she could continue to eat chocolate and lose weight. So let me start by saying this is a relatively new client and so we've had little time to get acquainted or for me to share significant guidance. Client A, as I will call her, was simply filling out a food journal for the week and following my directive to not change anything, so that I would have a clear view of her eating habits. Unfortunately, she did hear the news about chocolate, and so she increased her consumption of dark chocolate, because she said, "that's what I would have done hearing this news if I wasn't seeing you." And you told me not to change any habits.  So her baseline weight increased by 2 pounds when I weighed her during our second visit.

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    In all fairness to my client, headlines in various newspapers screamed:

    • Chocolate may not be hazardous to your waistline
    • Frequent chocolate eaters are thinner
    • The chocolate diet may help you get thin too
    • Who says chocolate eaters are fatties?

    Of course, I think most sensible people would have examined the actual study or assumed that there has to be some optimal portion size and frequency that is connected to maintaining a healthy weight or losing a bit of weight. So let's examine the study a bit. The average subjects were middle age individuals, and they exercised about three times a week and ate chocolate on average twice a week. Not your definition of "frequent" is it?? And the type of chocolate - dark, milk, white - did not seem to make a difference (that is surprising to me, since we really only credit darker chocolate with anti-oxidants). Well, to be fair the pool of subjects actually had a range of exercise frequency, a range of weights during weigh-ins and a range of amounts of chocolate eaten, with the most frequent intake being five times/week and the least frequent being zero servings per week. The study noted that the people who consumed the most frequent servings of chocolate weekly and exercised with no more frequency than other subjects, tended to have the lowest weights. The actual differences in weight hovered around five to seven pounds, so these "high chocolate eaters" on average weighed five to seven pounds less. Since dietary observational studies can be unreliable, the researchers did adjust for age, gender, vegetable consumption, fat and calories consumed and even for depression. Despite these variable adjustments, the relationship of higher chocolate consumption and lower weight (BMI) remained.

     

    So what is exactly at work here creating the weight benefits? The researchers want it clearly understood that it's not how much chocolate was eaten, but rather "frequency of eating the chocolate" that conferred the benefits. The BMI actually began to climb when frequency of consumption was coupled with larger portions. The lead researcher also postulated that the phenols, a type of antioxidant in the chocolate, especially dark chocolate, increased muscular performance, helped to build lean muscle mass, and seemed to reduce a person's weight without a person also having to reduce calorie consumption or increase exercise. So the takeaway seems to be that chocolate provides a bit of a weight edge when small portions are consumed frequently in certain individuals. No magic and no big weight loss - just a bit of and edge.

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    I might add that since the study and the news of the study hit the airwaves, other experts have come forward to question efficacy and methods used in the study.  Frankly I do too, because white chocolate is not really chocolate from a nutrition standpoint and milk chocolate also typically has far lower levels of anti-oxidants and phenols.  If the study only pointed out 'benefits of very dark chocolate," I would find the results more clinically believable.

Published On: April 04, 2012