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Chocolate Eating Linked To Lower BMI

Posted: 03/26/2012 4:01 pm Updated: 03/27/2012 8:30 am

Chocolate Bmi

Good news, chocolate fans.

A new study suggests that people who eat the sweet stuff may more frequently have lower BMI.

The research published Monday in the Archives of Internal Medicine finds that among approximately 1,000 Californians, age 20 to 85, individuals who consumed chocolate more frequently had a lower BMI than those who consumed it less often. (Body Mass Index is a measurement of height relative to weight.) Overall, participants ate chocolate an average of two times per week and exercised 3.6 times per week.

According to the study authors, the findings were not explained by having a better overall diet or engaging in more physical activity.

"We had data from a full food frequency questionnaire and found that [these people] didn't necessarily eat more fruits and vegetables, and they ate more saturated fat," said Dr. Beatrice Golomb, with the department of family and preventive medicine at the University of Califonia, San Diego, and one of the study's authors. "But with or without adjustment for a range of other factors, we found the more frequent chocolate eaters had lower BMI."

The study's authors caution that the new study does not establish a cause and effect relationship between eating more chocolate and losing weight.

However, given prior research suggesting chocolate consumption may be beneficial for metabolic function, linking it to reduced risk of diabetes, stroke and heart attack, the authors claim that the new study may point to something beyond a mere association.

"Chocolate can be rich in antioxidants, which can protect against oxidative stress," said Golomb. "That has the ability to 'poison' cell metabolism a little bit."

She said that at the very least, the current study makes it clear that there's a "reasonably strong" possibility that something causal may be occurring and justifies further research.

Dr. David Katz, founding director of Yale University's Prevention Research Center and a blogger with The Huffington Post, said that attempting to establish a causal relationship from a cross-sectional study would be "informed guessing at best."

Still, he added that research has suggested that antioxidants might play a role in reducing inflammation, and that dark chocolate in particular might help balance the hormones that facilitate weight control.

Another key factor may be satiety.

"It may be that people who make it a regular part of their routine know that it really gets the job done," Katz said. "They think 'If I need a bit of pleasure, I'm not going to try and eat 11 other things first.'" He explained that what matters often in weight control is the number of calories it takes for people to feel full and satisfied, which accounts for why high calorie foods like walnuts can actually help people maintain their weight.

While it is not an emphasis of the new study, Katz cautioned that all chocolate is not created equal, particularly when it comes to potential health benefits. He suggested that people stick with dark chocolate.

"Dark chocolate, specifically if it's bittersweet -- if it's that that 60 percent or higher threshold -- is really rich in fiber, and it's filling," Katz said. "It can be intensely satisfying to eat, and often what we're looking for with food is satisfaction."

For more "bad" things that could actually be good for you, click through the slideshow:

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  • 1. (Compounds In) Red Wine

    Past research has shown that red wine may help <a href="" target="_hplink">boost our heart health</a>, when taken in moderation. But a new study out this year shows that the resveratrol <em>in</em> red wine might also be able to <a href="" target="_hplink">prevent further growth of breast cancer cells</a>. That research, published in the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology journal, was done in a lab, but it showed that <a href="" target="_hplink">applying resveratrol to lines of breast cancer cells</a> led to hindrance of cell growth. However, editor of the journal Dr. Gerald Weissmann told the Press Association that this doesn't mean people should drink red wine with the <a href="" target="_hplink">expectation that it will stop breast cancer</a>. "What it does mean, however, is that scientists haven't yet finished distilling the secrets of good health that have been hidden in natural products such as <a href="" target="_hplink">red wine</a>," he told the Press Association.

  • 2. Funny Movies

    For people who think that the only "good" movies you should watch are the serious dramas or mind-bending thrillers, a study by researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine shows that it's the <a href="" target="_hplink">comedies that actually have a positive effect</a> on health. Researchers had study participants watch clips from the movies "There's Something About Mary" and "Saving Private Ryan" on separate days. Then, using complex measurements, researchers found that <a href="" target="_hplink">watching the comedy led to expansion of blood vessels</a>, while watching the war drama led to constriction of blood vessels (which leads to reduced blood flow). "The magnitude of change we saw in the endothelium after laughing was consistent and similar to the benefit we might see with aerobic exercise or statin use," Miller <a href="" target="_hplink">told Science Daily</a>.

  • 3. Coffee

    A multitude of studies have examined the <a href="" target="_hplink">health effects of coffee</a>, and many of them have come out showing the good. This year in particular, a study in the journal <em>Archives of Internal Medicine</em> shows that caffeine from coffee seems to <a href="" target="_hplink">protect women from depression</a>. The study, conducted by Harvard researchers, included more than 50,000 people who were part of the Nurse's Health Study. Study researcher Dr. Albert Ascherio told HuffPost that caffeine might work in this way because "it modulates the <a href="" target="_hplink">release of mood transmitters</a>," though he did point out that there is also a link between coffee and anxiety.

  • 4. Doing Just One Thing At A Time

    In today's world, it seems like you have to do 10 things at once if you want to keep up with everyone else. But actually, just staying focused on one task at a time may be better for your brain, research suggests. A study in the <em>Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences</em> involved having study participants look at a scene, but then interrupting them with an image of a face and then asking them to explain details about the face (gender and age). Then, the study participants were asked to recall information about the original scene. The older people (average age of 69.1) had a <a href="" target="_hplink">harder time with the recall</a> than the younger people (average age of 24.5 years) in the study, researchers from the University of California at San Francisco reported. "This issue is growing in scope and societal relevance as <a href="" target="_hplink">multitasking</a> is being fed by a dramatic increase in the accessibility and variety of electronic media," study researcher Dr. Adam Gazzaley, a neurologist at the University of California at San Francisco, told <em>The New York Times</em>.

  • 5. Chocolate

    We've all heard that a piece of dark chocolate can be good for us, but new research published this year shows exactly <em>how</em>. A review of studies in the <em>British Medical Journal</em> shows that <a href="" target="_hplink">eating chocolate regularly</a> could <a href="" target="_hplink">lower your stroke risk</a> by as much as a third. This review of studies did not differentiate between different kinds of chocolate (dark versus milk, etc.). But researchers did caution that people should be careful not to interpret this finding to mean they can eat as much chocolate as they want, as <a href="" target="_hplink">chocolate contains a lot of calories</a>. In addition, another study in the <em>Journal of the American College of Cardiology</em> showed that eating more than 45 grams of chocolate a week -- about two candy bars' worth -- is linked with a 20 percent <a href="" target="_hplink">lowered risk of stroke</a>. "Cocoa contains flavonoids, which have antioxidant properties and can suppress oxidation of low-density lipoprotein ['bad' cholesterol] which can cause cardiovascular disease [including stroke]," study author Susanna Larsson, an associate professor in the division of nutritional epidemiology at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, <a href="" target="_hplink">told HealthDay</a> about the findings.

  • 6. Beer

    So you know how some compounds in wine may be good for you? Well, a new study that came out this week shows that <a href="" target="_hplink">beer might have those same benefits</a> for your health. A study out of Italy in the <em>European Journal of Epidemiology</em> shows that <a href="" target="_hplink">people who drink beer moderately</a> have a 31 percent decreased risk of heart disease. io9 reported that the risk-benefit balance is the same as wine -- it's only <a href="" target="_hplink">good for you if you drink low to moderate amounts</a>. Once you start to go overboard, the benefits disappear.

  • 7. Fidgeting

    <a href="" target="_hplink">Fidgeting in your seat</a> may be irritating to everyone around you, but research published this year in the journal <em>Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise</em> shows that it could actually be contributing to your physical activity for the day, the <em>Daily Mail</em> reported, thereby boosting your cardiorespiratory fitness. Of course, the more intense these moments of "incidental physical activity," the better for our health, researchers said. But it all adds up, whether it's walking to talk to a coworker versus sending an email or <a href="" target="_hplink">doing more chores around the house</a>. "It's encouraging to know that if we just <a href="" target="_hplink">increase our incidental activity slightly</a> ... we can really benefit our health in the long-term," study researcher Ashlee McGuire, a graduate student in the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies at Queen's University, said in a statement.

  • 8. Sex

    Sex is good for your happiness and your relationships. It's science. Research this year shows that it's the <a href="" target="_hplink">key to a happy marriage</a> in old age, with more sex having greater effects. That study, presented at the annual meeting of the Gerontological Society of America, shows that older spouses who said they had sexual activity were more likely to say they had <a href="" target="_hplink">fulfilling lives and marriages</a>. In addition, research conducted by the University of California, San Diego showed that older women who have an active sex life also reported being <a href="" target="_hplink">happier and having a better quality of life</a>. "Although the levels of sexual activity and functioning did vary significantly, depending on the woman's age, their perceived quality of life, successful aging and sexual satisfaction remained positive," study researcher Professor Wesley Thompson told <em>The Telegraph</em>. "What this study tells us is that many older adults retain their ability to <a href="" target="_hplink">enjoy sex well into old age.</a>"

  • 9. Fever

    We've been trained to believe that all fevers are bad and that we need to do whatever possible to lower them, but research published this year shows that they actually play a role in <a href="" target="_hplink">increasing our immune system defense</a>. Researchers from Roswell Park Cancer Institute found that a higher body temperature can <a href="" target="_hplink">help our immune systems to work better and harder</a> against infected cells. The finding was published in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology. Before, researchers thought that <a href="" target="_hplink">fevers worked</a> by hindering dangerous microbes from multiplying. But "this new work also suggests that the immune system might be temporarily enhanced functionally when our temperatures rise with fever," John Wherry, Ph.D., deputy editor of the journal, said in the statement. But he noted that the finding should only prompt people to reconsider how they treat mild fevers, and not fevers that are dangerously high.

  • 10. Being A Slow Eater

    Were you always that kid who was the last one at the dinner table, prompting glares from your mom or dad to just hurry. Up. Already? Well, research published this year in the <em>Journal of the American Dietetic Association</em> shows that being a slow eater may actually be good for you -- the study revealed that people who <a href="" target="_hplink">eat the fastest are more likely to be obese</a> than slow eaters. The study, conducted by researchers from the University of Otago, showed that <a href="" target="_hplink">the faster people ate</a>, the more their body mass index (BMI, a ratio of weight to height) increased -- 2.8 percent for each "step" increase on the five-step eating-speed scale (equivalent to an extra 4.3 pounds).

  • 11. Swearing

    If you illustrate your frustration with some colorful language, research shows that it could actually have a <a href="" target="_hplink">benefit for your pain response</a>. Research from Keele University in England showed that <a href="" target="_hplink">swearing</a> allowed people to hold their hands in cold water for a longer period of time, compared with not swearing. However, the effect only works if you're not a regular potty-mouth -- researchers found that people who regularly curse as part of their daily discourse didn't <a href="" target="_hplink">have as much of a pain-relief benefit</a> from cursing than people who don't swear that often.

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