New evidence shows that not only does chocolate NOT make you fat, it actually may contribute to a lower body mass index (BMI) and less abdominal fat. A study by researchers at the University of Granada, published recently in the journal Nutrition, (Magdalena Cuenca-Garcia, October 21, 2013) showed that people who consume higher levels of chocolate tend to have lower overall body fat, and lower central fat stores (fatty tissue stored around the organs in the abdominal cavity). The results appeared to be significant despite other differences in sex, diet, and physical activity.
This study followed nearly 1500 teens ages 12-17, already participating in the Healthy Lifestyle in Europe by Nutrition in Adolescence Cross-Sectional Study (HELENA-CSS), by analyzing two 24-hour food recalls taken on non-consecutive days. That data was then compared to measurements of the youths’ Body Mass Index (BMI), skinfold test to measure percent body fat and waist circumference.
These results were corroborated by a recent cross-sectional study of adult subjects conducted at the University of California, which found that higher consumption of chocolate was associated with a lower BMI.
These results are thought to be owed to catechins – a type of bioflavonoid – found in high amounts in cocoa beans.
This is great news for chocolate lovers! But that doesn’t mean that you can expect to lose weight if you run out and stuff yourself with candy bars. As with all things, moderation is the key. Excessive caloric intake will still make you gain weight, even if the items you’re eating are considered healthy. And keep in mind that dark chocolate, which is higher in pure cocoa content, not only has more catechins per ounce but tends to be more satisfying in smaller amounts than milk or white chocolate. So choose high-quality chocolates that are at least 60% pure cocoa to really see the benefits of those bioflavonoids.
This also does not mean that chocolate should be considered a weight loss supplement. More study is needed to determine the exact magnitude of the effects of different types of chocolate on weight. There are, however, other supplements which have shown promise in research in helping control and reduce body fat, such as Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA), Green Coffee Bean Extract, and Pyruvate. Physical activity and a healthy diet focused on whole foods must also play a role in weight maintenance.