By now you may have already seen the headlines that those who regularly eat chocolate have been found to have a lower BMI than those who don't. But before you go out to buy up all of the chocolate Easter bunnies that are in the stores these days, it's important to know the real deal on chocolate and weight.
First, let's go over the facts on chocolate. According to the study, chocolate has been shown to be good for the metabolism by improving blood pressure, insulin sensitivity and cholesterol. Additionally, chocolate is rich in antioxidants that boost health. However, because chocolate is often combined with sugar and fat, many of the ways we eat chocolate mix some of the healthy things with the not-so-healthy things.
Next, let's discuss the research. Published recently in the Archives of Internal Medicine
, the study surveyed more than 1,000 adults on their weight/BMI and to see how often they ate chocolate a week. What researchers found was that frequent chocolate eaters had, on average, lower BMIs than the less frequent chocolate eaters, even when they consumed more calories and more saturated fat.
Although it seems like chocolate is the secret treat we've all been searching for, it's important to remember that the study proves an association — not a cause-and-effect relationship, says Rebecca Scritchfield, RD and a nutrition and exercise expert specializing in weight management.
"This is a very small study done only on a small group of people in California, so you can't extrapolate that to 'all Americans,'" she says. "It suggests an association between people who eat chocolate and a lower BMI than people who don't eat chocolate, but eating chocolate does not lower your BMI."
So basically, you shouldn't go eat a bar of chocolate assuming it will lower your BMI. Bummer. But, that doesn't mean that chocolate can't be good for you or that it can't be a part of a weight-loss plan or healthy lifestyle.
"I'm a big fan of chocolate and not policing any food," Scritchfield says. "If you like milk chocolate, have that. If you like dark, have that. Dark has more antioxidants and health benefits, but don't eat dark only if you love milk, too."
The bottomline? Eat what you love — but be sure to self-regulate the amount, she says.
Do you eat chocolate every day? Once a week? Hardly ever? Tell us about it!
Jennipher Walters is the CEO and co-founder of the healthy living websites FitBottomedGirls.com and FitBottomedMamas.com. A certified personal trainer, lifestyle and weight management coach and group exercise instructor, she also holds an MA in health journalism and regularly writes about all things fitness and wellness for various online publications.