What is full of sugar and fat, tastes delicious and is good for you?
If you said “nothing” you aren’t alone, but it seems that (once again) Willy Wonka’s favorite treat is making some people rethink that conclusion. Yes, we’re talking about chocolate! If you haven’t heard, another “chocolate is good for you study” came out this week and so we thought we’d give you a brief summary of it.
If you’ve followed our blog, you’ve seen periodic posts about studies that seem to suggest chocolate (often dark chocolate specifically) might be good for blood pressure, cholesterol and prevention of heart disease. The current study used questionnaires of 1000 healthy adults and found some interesting associations. Specifically the people who ate chocolate more often (5 times a week) tended to be thinner than the people who ate it less often. This association persisted even after they corrected for things like activity and saturated fat intake. In other words the people eating chocolate more frequently weren’t also exercising more frequently or eating less saturated fat.
Before you go buy a bunch of chocolate bars, keep reading…
The thought is that there is something in chocolate that helps us process calories better. Now this is speculation based on animal studies, but it seems that a substance called epicatechin–found naturally in cocoa–increases the metabolism of our cells and improves muscle performance and mass. Said another way, this substance may help us burn calories faster and make us more muscular! Dark chocolate, which contains more cocoa, is what tends to contain this substance (sorry to all the white and milk chocolate lovers out there!)
There’s another important point here, and that is there seems to be a “sweet spot” in the amount of chocolate that provides these benefits and if you go below or above it, you don’t get them. That “sweet spot” is (unfortunately) only about the size of a Hershey’s Kiss (dark chocolate!).
One last technical, but important point: this type of study (questionnaire-based) has some important limitations, and it is hard to draw firm conclusions because of those limitations. In other words, this might be all wrong. A stronger study design is what is called a randomized trial. So if they decide to do a randomized trial looking into the benefits of chocolate consumption in humans, does anyone want to volunteer?!
(photo sourced from photobucket.com)