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These results are so counter-intuitive that all one can do is echo the researchers: The findings "are intriguing." And maybe there should be a randomized trial of chocolate consumption (which I'd stay with only if I were randomly assigned to the frequent-chocolate arm.) Meanwhile, let us all just hope that it turns out to be true that chocolate is the carrier of a special metabolic magic, and that doctors will someday say, "Take six squares and call me in the morning."
From the Archives of Internal Medicine today:
More Frequently Eating Chocolate Appears Related to Lower BMI
CHICAGO – More frequently eating chocolate was linked to lower body mass index (BMI), according to a research letter in the March 26 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.
Consumption of certain types of chocolate has been linked to some favorable metabolic associations with blood pressure, insulin sensitivity and cholesterol level. However, because chocolate can be a calorie-laden sweet there are concerns about eating it.
Beatrice A. Golomb, M.D., Ph.D., and colleagues with the University of California, San Diego, studied 1,018 men and woman without known cardiovascular disease, diabetes or extremes of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) levels who were screened for participation in a clinical study examining noncardiac effects of statins. To measure chocolate consumption, 1,017 of the participants answered a question about how many times per week they ate chocolate. BMI was calculated for 972 of them. Of the participants, 975 completed a food frequency questionnaire.
“Adults who consumed chocolate more frequently had a lower BMI than those who consumed chocolate less often,” the authors note.
Participants had a mean (average) age of 57 years, 68 percent were men and the mean BMI was 28. They ate chocolate a mean (average) of two times a week and exercised 3.6 times a week.
“In conclusion, our findings – that more frequent chocolate intake is linked to lower BMI – are intriguing,” the authors conclude. “A randomized trial of chocolate for metabolic benefits in humans may be merited.”
p.s. A few notes from my reading of the paper:
• No, the study was not funded by Hershey or Mars. The money came from the NIH and the University of California.
• Eating chocolate more often was linked to higher consumption of calories and saturated fat, and it was not linked to greater physical activity. Yet it still correlated with lower Body Mass Index. How then? How?
• It seemed that what mattered was frequency of chocolate rather than amount; amount seemed neither to raise nor lower weight. How odd: The ultimate guilty treat, and no apparent effect of quantity on weight?
• This study is far from the last word, but it does suggest that chocolate carries a certain metabolic magic. In medical terms, the authors write:
Chocolate has shown other metabolic benefits -— in prospective observational studies and randomized trials — in regard to insulin sensitivity, blood pressure and total and LDL-C [cholesterol] levels.3 (Chocolate has also been linked in prospective observational studies to lower cardiovascular and all-cause mortality, outcomes predicted by MetS [metabolic syndrome] elements.) Thus, our findings extend favorable associations of chocolate to metabolic factors.
See our follow-up post about an obesity specialist who found major methodological problems with the study.
This program aired on March 26, 2012. The audio for this program is not available.
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