Chocolate is high in calories, sugar, and fat. And eating a lot of it will cause weight gain. But a little chocolate may actually provide some health benefits.
In a recent study, researchers found that people who eat chocolate frequently have a lower body mass index (BMI) than those who eat chocolate less often. And that's even after adjusting for confounders like physical activity. It doesn't seem logical, but the findings are supported by similar studies that looked at the health benefits of cocoa and chocolate.
Moderate chocolate intake has also been shown to help lower blood pressure, improve insulin sensitivity, and improve LDL and total cholesterol levels. Several prospective studies have shown that eating chocolate is linked to lower cardiovascular and all-cause mortality.
Chocolate is a very rich source of antioxidants, including polyphenols and catechins, that help protect the cardiovascular system. In an animal study, these cocoa-derived antioxidants increasedcapillary formation and muscular performance. These nutrients also increased lean muscle mass and reduced body weight (in rats) – without reduced calories or increased exercise.
The authors of this study said, "Our findings that more frequent chocolate intake is linked to lower BMI are intriguing." If you enjoy chocolate (especially dark chocolate) eating a little may not be harmful and may be beneficial. But just to be sure, add in a little extra exercise with your chocolate. It will help you burn the added calories. If you don't want the fat and sugar found in most chocolate candy, you can try a cup of hot chocolate. The benefit is in the chocolate, not the sugar and added fat.
And no, this study was not paid for by the chocolate industry. It was funded by a National Institute of Health, Heart, Blood, and Lung Institute grant and was conducted by the University of California, San Diego.
Source: Archives of Internal Medicine, 172(6);519-521, March 26, 2012.