HEALTHY LIVING

Chocolate-Eating Teens Have Less Total, Abdominal Fat: Study

11/09/2013 09:38 am ET
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Go ahead, indulge.

Teens who eat a lot of chocolate tend to have lower levels of total and abdominal fat, according to a new study in the journal Nutrition.

The findings are based on data from 1,458 youths ages 12 to 17, who were part of the Healthy Lifestyle in Europe by Nutrition in Adolescence study, which examines lifestyle habits among youths in nine countries in Europe.

Researchers from the University of Granada found an association between higher consumption of chocolate, and lower levels of total and abdominal fat (as measured through body fat percentage, body mass index and waist circumference).

Plus, the chocolate consumption seemed to hold true independently of other potential factors, such as physical activity, fruit and vegetable consumption, saturated fat consumption, sex and energy intake.

'The fact that the results were consistent when using different markers of fatness such as BMI, body fat assessed by skinfold thickness, BIA [bioelectrical impedance analysis], and waist circumference further strengthens the study findings," they wrote in the study.

Even though chocolate contains sugar and fat, it is also high in flavonoids which have "important antioxidant, antithrombotic, anti-inflammatory and antihypertensive effects and can help prevent ischemic heart disease," study researcher Magdalena Cuenca-García explained in a statement.

However, researchers noted they did not have information on the type of chocolate consumed in the study. Dark chocolate is known to have an especially high concentration of flavonoids.

Even though this new study was only in teens, past research has shown chocolate could have positive effects on weight for adults, too. A study published last year in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine showed that body mass index is lower among adults who consume chocolate frequently, compared with those who don't eat it that often.

Also on HuffPost:

  • 1 It Reduces Stroke Risk
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  • A 2011 Swedish study found that women who ate more than 45 grams of chocolate a week had a 20 percent lower risk of stroke than women who treated themselves to fewer than 9 grams of the sweet stuff.
  • 2 It Boosts Heart Health
    Matija Puhek/500px
  • Regular chocolate eaters welcome a host of benefits for their hearts, including lower blood pressure, lower "bad" LDL cholesterol and a lower risk of heart disease. One of the reasons dark chocolate is especially heart-healthy is its inflammation-fighting properties, which reduce cardiovascular risk.
  • 3 It Fills You Up
    Kohei Hara via Getty Images
  • Because it's rich in fiber, dark chocolate can actually help keep you full, so you'll eat less, Dr. David Katz, founding director of Yale University's Prevention Research Center and HuffPost blogger told The Huffington Post. Regular chocolate eaters might do themselves a favor by treating themselves to a bite instead of snacking on "11 other things first" he said. Dark chocolate does the trick much better than milk, according to a small study from the University of Copenhagen, and may even reduce cravings for sweet, salty and fatty foods.
  • 4 It May Fight Diabetes
    Julie Thompson
  • A small Italian study from 2005 found that regularly eating chocolate increases insulin sensitivity, thereby reducing risk for diabetes.
  • 5 It Protects Your Skin
    Katerina Nanopoulou via Alamy
  • Forget what you've heard about chocolate causing breakouts: Dark chocolate is actually good for your skin. The type of antioxidants called flavonoids found in dark chocolate offer some protection from UV damage from the sun. And no, that does not mean you can skip the sunscreen!
  • 6 It Can Quiet Coughs
    Andrew Harding via Jupiter Images
  • Can't stop coughing? An ingredient in chocolate called theobromine seems to reduce activity of the vagus nerve, the part of the brain that triggers hard-to-shake coughs. In late 2010, the BBC reported that scientists were investigating creating a drug containing theobromine to preplace cough syrups containing codeine, which can have risky side effects.
  • 7 It Boosts Your Mood
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  • There's no denying that indulging your sweet tooth every once in a while feels great. Enjoying food is part of enjoying life, points out HuffPost Healthy Living's wellness editor, Dr. Patricia Fitzgerald. Chocolate eaters also report feeling less stressed.
  • 8 It Improves Blood Flow
    Lisa Capretto/OWN
  • Cocoa has anti-clotting, blood-thinning properties that work in a similar way to aspirin, Dr. Fitzgerald writes, which can improve blood flow and circulation.
  • 9 It Improves Vision
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  • Because of chocolate's ability to improve blood flow, in particular to the brain, researchers at the University of Reading hypothesized in a small 2011 study that chocolate may also increase blood flow to the retina, thereby giving vision a boost.
  • 10 It May Make You Smarter
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  • That boost of blood flow to the brain created by cocoa's flavanols seems to make people feel more awake and alert, and, in a small British study, perform better on counting tasks.
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