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.