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Can Eating Chocolate Actually Help You Stay Thin?

A friend of mine forwarded me a recent press release from CBS News that had the following headline. “Eating Lots Of Chocolate Helps People Stay Thin, Study Finds.” Are you kidding me? I couldn’t believe it was true until I read it with my own eyes.

This is exactly the kind of misleading information that keeps people stuck in a body they’re not happy with. Now before we get into the study let’s just accept the fact that you can find conflicting reports on just about anything related to health, fitness, and wellness.

One study says coffee is bad for you, the next one says it’s healthy, and the list goes on. The thing that bothers me the most is that some people will read this story from CBS News and use it as a way to justify their habit of indulging on snacks and vegan drinking chocolate. Not that I’m against having those things once in a while, I’m am simply concerned with the present culture of over doing it.

More than likely these will be individuals who struggle with sugar addictions, weight problems, and less than optimal health. Granted not all chocolate is the same and we’ll get into that, but does the headline of this story really reflect the results of the study?

Pay special attention to the phrase “eating LOTS of chocolate helps people stay thin.” Do editors really do their job anymore and does truthful journalism still exist, or is everything about stellar headlines that get stories read? Here’s an excerpt from the story.

For the study, published in the March 26 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers examined more than 1,000 healthy men and women who were free of heart disease, diabetes and cholesterol problems. They were all enrolled in another study that measured the effects of cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, but for this study researchers assigned them questionnaires that gauged how often participants chowed down on chocolate.

The researchers found that the participants – who were an average age of 57 – ate chocolate for an average of twice of week and exercised roughly 3.5 times per week. But the more frequent chocolate-eaters had smaller BMIs, a ratio of height and weight that’s used to measure obesity.

What explains the effect? Even though chocolate can be loaded with calories, it’s full of antioxidants and other ingredients that may promote weight loss, the researchers said.

“I was pretty happy with this news myself,” study author Dr. Beatrice Golomb, associate professor of medicine at the University of California-San Diego, told USA Today. “Findings show the composition of calories, not just the number of them, matters for determining ultimate weight.”

Does that mean all diet regimens should include a daily chocolate bar? The researchers say it’s too soon to tell.

“Our findings – that more frequent chocolate intake is linked to lower BMI – are intriguing,” the authors wrote. However, “It is not a siren call to go out and eat 20 pounds of chocolate a day,” Golomb told HealthDay. Read rest of the story.

Look, I’m not trying to bash Dr. Golumb, professor at the University Of California-San Diego, but are you kidding me? She states she was “pretty happy with the news.” Happy about what exactly? That this somehow showed that the quality of calories matters just as much as the quantity?

I thought we already knew that. But this isn’t to say that 200 calories from a Snickers bar is equivalent to 200 calories from raw almonds, just because both contain some antioxidants. There’s no comparison at the end of the day. Let’s be real here.

And where’s the evidence that suggests people who eat “LOTS” of chocolate have smaller BMI’s? Looks to me like they pulled one variable out of the study, the questionnaire which asked test participants about their chocolate consumption.

Can we draw conclusions from the findings that participants who ate chocolate an average of twice per week actually had lower BMI’s because of this? This is a stretch to say the least. But the one thing it certainly doesn’t say is that people who eat “LOTS” of chocolate are going to be thinner.

What other factors were at play here? What kind of chocolate was consumed?

There are a host of unanswered questions. It really doesn’t matter because you don’t have to be a research scientist or professor to draw your own conclusions from simple real world observation.

How many fit and healthy people do you know that consume lots of chocolate? I don’t ever recall hearing the late fitness and health guru Jack LaLanne going around preaching the benefits of eating chocolate. If anything he was advocating against it.

This isn’t to say there may not be some truth to the health benefits of consuming chocolate. Certainly if we’re talking about organic dark chocolate it’s not the same thing as milk chocolate. There are flavonoids and antioxidants in the Cacao which is used to make dark chocolate.

I don’t want to dismiss the fact that flavonoids in dark chocolate can be more numerous than even some berries.

So can dark chocolate have a place in a healthy diet that allows people to stay thin?

I’d have to say yes when consumed in moderation. You may know that I’m a big proponent of a Primal Blueprint type diet. Dark chocolate is included in the list of sensible indulgences to be consumed in moderation and I’d have to agree with that. Once again it’s all about moderation.

Organic dark chocolate also contains natural caffeine which can be used to explain some of the basis behind a correlation to a lower BMI. It can help raise your rate of metabolism and assist with thermogenesis in the right situation.

Just a word of caution though, be careful consuming dark chocolate late at night. The caffeine may pose a problem with you getting restful sleep. Also don’t fall into the trap of thinking dark chocolate doesn’t contain sugar. It does, the content is lower than milk chocolate but there’s still sugar in it. If there wasn’t sugar added it would be really bitter. Each brand and type is different so you’ll have to read the labels.

I don’t want to drag this on into an endless debate so I’ll just cut to the chase with my two cents on the subject.

A small piece of dark chocolate consumed a few nights a week isn’t going to make or break your weight loss and fitness goals. Your success is going to be determined by the big picture with what you’re eating most often and what your exercise is like. I don’t want to split hairs here because you could still get to an ideal body weight and consume some dark chocolate now and then.

Is it necessary? Of course not, you could certainly fare just fine without it in your diet. Just don’t take misleading stories like this as an excuse to load up on sugary milk chocolate and candy. I can assure you that Snickers bar is NOT helping you get a slimmer waistline.

I get the fact that people who LOVE chocolate will look for every shred of evidence to justify their habit. They become easy prey for people who promote the slimming and health benefits of consuming chocolate.  Heck, there’s even the “Chocolate Weight Loss Diet” that promotes weight loss while enjoying as much chocolate as you’d like. The pitch is a product called Xocai which is a combination of Cacao and Acai Berry, that they claim helps promote weight loss.

Haven’t we already dealt with the misleading claims of Acai Berry being a weight loss superfood? This isn’t to say that Acai Berry and Cacao don’t have health benefits, they certainly do. But this whole positioning of foods like this being weight loss aids has got to stop. I won’t hold my breath though.

Weight loss is a multi-billion dollar industry and as long as there’s a buck to me made off of giving people what they want, we’ll continue to see more of the same.

Enjoy some dark chocolate in moderation if you want but let’s not get carried away here folks. Eating lots of chocolate is not going to put you a path towards a leaner, more fit body. If someone has made a body transformation by eating lots of chocolate I’d love to hear from them. I’ve been in the game a long time and have yet to see it.

Until I see something more I think I stick with the “chocolate in moderation” mindset.

Shane Doll is a certified Charleston personal trainer, fat loss expert, speaker, and founder of Shaping Concepts. With a staff of over 10 certified fitness professionals, Shaping Concepts provides fitness consulting in Charleston with a specialty on weight loss and body transformation. See our success stories from numerous Lowcountry residents then sign up for a no-obligations consultation today.

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Category: Shane's Commentary.