Chocolate For Weight Loss?

Can eating chocolate regularly make you thinner?  A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine and reported on by the BBC seems to think so, its certainly a wonderful thought.  The study found those who ate chocolate a few times a week were, on average, slimmer than those who ate it occasionally.  Can I re-wrap Hershey chocolate bars with the label “Scooby’s Weight Loss Bars” and sell them for $97 each?  Not so fast.

Research doesn’t  prove anything, it just suggests.  In this case, it suggests the need for more research.  I didn’t have access to the full text of the study to see if the researchers just passively monitored and drew conclusions or if they actively set the the chocolate consumption for each of the participants in the study.  It makes a big difference.  If its the former then I have a perfectly reasonable alternative explanation for the results of their study which shows how careful one needs to be drawing conclusions.

People who eat it regularly, meaning daily, must keep a stock of it on hand. That means that they can control their eating of the chocolate. A choco-holic like myself couldn’t do that, we would buy the months supply and binge-eat it in a day.  I freely admit that I have ZERO self control when it comes to sweets.  On the other had I know people who put a bowl of chocolates on their desk at work, and are satisfied by just having a little taste of chocolate each day.  Before I understood that all people were not like me I would ask them incredulously how they could possibly concentrate with a full bowl of chocolate staring them in the face all day just begging to be eaten.  These two groups are so different that they just can’t believe the other exists.  Those with the built in self control look down their noses at those of us who can’t stop at one piece of chocolate as weak willed.  Those with no self control around chocolate and sweets like myself look at the one-a-day folks like they are another species.  Its no mystery that these people with the built in self control would be thinner than those of us with none!  I don’t need to do a study to figure that one out :)  People who have no self control around chocolate cope by not having it around. When we do eat chocolate though, we eat way, way more than the one-a-day’ers so that our yearly chocolate consumption exceeds that of those eating it just once a day.

Again, I have not seen the actual text of the study so its quite possible that they actively set the chocolate consumption of each participant in which case my alternative explanation of their data is completely irrelevant.  The point of this post is to be very careful about research.  Don’t drastically change your lifestyle based on a single research report finding.  Moderation is always the best policy.  Red wine has been shown to be good for you but don’t drink a whole bottle a day, a glass a day is a better idea and if you cant keep consumption to that level then its probably a better idea that you avoid it completely.  Same with chocolate.  Yes, there is some research showing that dark chocolate is good for you and then this report seems to indicate some possible link with weight maintenance also but lets use some moderation here.  If you cant limit yourself to one small piece a day for your desert at dinner then you would be better off having a bowl of fruit.

Alles Klar?


20 thoughts on “Chocolate For Weight Loss?”

  1. I’m the same way with ice cream as Scooby appears to be with chocolate. My wife bought two quarts of Haagendaz for lunch guests, who left quite a lot of it uneaten. I knew it was in the fridge, and that night, when my wife was asleep, snuck down to the kitchen and polished the whole quart off! I felt really guilty, imagining what Scooby would say if he knew.
    The lesson is “sehr klar”: keep it out of the house!

  2. Hi Scooby, keep up the good work here on this blog. Not sure how they do it state side but in the land of the BBC, we give numerous chocolate eggs at this time of year to celebrate the passing of easter. This is major time of year for the chocolate industry and it is customary for an article to appear in the media just in time for the chocolate season. They do it every year. Its a bit like when they report the best selling toys at Christmas. However it does raise the important issue of how scientific research is published in the media with obvious cherry picking of information by media outlets which is then jumped on by the grateful commercial interests. The BBC isnt even commercial driven (its paid for as a national fee – although its used internationally) its therefore unlikely to be influenced by the big chocolate companies. I think the reason these articles get such attention is because the media needs the sensationalism of reporting cherry picked information. I await the day the headline reads ‘Is the new fad diet we recommended last week – killing you!’

  3. I’m a medical student and read the full article – I couldn’t agree with you more Scooby! Even the best studies aren’t flawless and any study has to be read critically. It’s just that a study like this is gold for any news department because it’s a hot topic. Here, they simply state that they found an association with frequent chocolate intake (which they measured with a survey asking “How many times a week do you consume chocolate?”) and a lower BMI in their 1018 person sample from San Diego. The results held true after adjusting for age, sex, activity, sat fats and other possible confounding variables. By no means did they claim to find any causal relationship between the two- that’s a huge leap to make and would require well controlled EXPERIMENTAL studies. That being said, the results are not that surprising for the same reasons that Scooby brings up. The wine example is excellent – a glass a day of red wine is healthy, but would you recommend that to an alcoholic? :)

  4. I was having a discussion about those two types of people just yesterday. I don’t understand those people who can be so passive to chocolate. Completely with you on the chocoholic status Scoob. Only way I avoid that stuff is by not buying it. When I do buy a bar, I get a crazy hunger for more and go on a rediculous binge. Ate 3000 calories over the other day when I let it slip. Had some serious cardio to do making up for that one…

  5. Hey Scooby, I recommend you read a copy of “the end of overeating” by dr. david kessler if you get chance. I got a second hand copy of ebay, and it will change the way you think about food and “self control”. Like you said, constant research is the key!

  6. Just .02 for ya, I am a chocoholic, I live on chocolate about 6 months a year, Seriously eating sometimes a pound a day, I diet each winter though and give it up, for about 6 months I do keep 90% Cocoa in my freezer, Lindt bars they are called, I eat 2 blocks a day (120 cal 11gm, of fat) that lifts the edge of my cravings that I carry every day of the year. For 5 years now I’ll carry about 29% body fat by the end of my 6 month eating hiatus, I drop to about 21% by the end of my dieting regime. So just eating the implied chocolate does not work I am living proof, but like Scoob say’s when eating in moderation its ok,l can very easily drop from 230+ lbs to about 200 lbs and eat 840 cal /week worth

  7. To me, the most important point of this blog is that also scientific studies should be critically challenged. Scientific data, no matter how accurately collected it might be, can often be interpreted in many ways, all plausible to the non scientist. I remember e.g. a documentation on the moon landing, that very plausibly explained why the film sequences we all know must have come from a filmstudio right here on earth. Still, a physicist like me could easily wipe away their arguments, but if i was a medical doctor, i might have believed their (really plausible) arguments. So its very good, that there are still people out there who dont just believe everything they read in newspapers, but also question it. Thumbs up fpr people who use their own brain, such as scooby!

  8. You’ve hit the nail on the head with this blog post. Eating one bit of chocolate a day is certainly much better for you than binge eating a couple of times a month.

    I also read somewhere that eating something occasionally as a treat can help control bad eating habits as it cuts out the cravings and means that you’re much less likely to have a bad day eating fast foods.

    I find that the key to eating healthy isn’t to punish myself but to have a treat or one meal a week that doesn’t stick to my healthy diet. I find that this keeps my cravings under control and am less likely to binge on fatty foods.

    I’m in the same camp as Scooby in that if there’s chocolate, crisps or biscuits around the house then I’m not satisfied eating one of two and would have to finish off the whole packet or bar. The solution… don’t keep any bad foods in the house to avoid temptation.

    The bad thing about studies like this one is that people won’t investigate it further and will simply assume that “eating chocolate is good for you”. Some people will unfortunately just hear what they want to hear and not understand the facts of the study.

  9. well, I do have strange things happening. Eating clean only slowly makes my weight go I recently ate two pieces of chocolate cake…and the other day even two chocolate cookies…and i lost TWO damn kilos………………….that s of course no reason for me to continue eating this…but i was absolutely shocked that this happened o.O

  10. It really depends on the quality of the chololate and how much chocolate is in the bar.

    Anything less than 70% would not be on my diet if I were to use it as suppliment for my daily intake of calories.

    I personally don’t like the tast of 70%+ chocolate so I’ll just leave it for others to eat ;)

    1. I did not like it too at first but, once you get used to it, it is one of the most satisfying tastes you can get. It is just like some other tastes (this happens with music also) that are not easy to the tongue (ear) but need some initiation process. Of course you need to find a decent brand (Nestle or Kraft are not a choice).
      I consume an 81% d. chocolate and use it as a pre workout supplement also as it gives me a better boost than caffeine. Another advantage of d.c. is that portion control is relatively easy because of its rich-full taste that satisfies you before you eat too much.

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