A new observational study published in the journal Nutrition, confirms that chocolate consumption may have significant health benefits. The European study titled, “Association between chocolate consumption and fatness in European adolescents,” found a higher chocolate consumption was associated with lower total and central fatness in European adolescents.
The study method was reported as follows:
“This study comprised 1458 adolescents (ages 12.5-17.5 y) participating in HELENA-CSS (Healthy Lifestyle in Europe by Nutrition in Adolescence Cross-Sectional Study). Dietary intake was self-registered using a computer-based tool for 24-h dietary recall on 2 non-consecutive days. Weight and height were measured, and BMI [body mass index] was calculated. Adiposity was estimated using skinfolds (Slaughter’s equation) and bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA). Waist circumference was measured. Sexual maturation also was recorded. Physical activity was measured by accelerometry.”
The results were summarized as follows:
“Higher chocolate consumption was associated with lower levels of total and central fatness, as estimated by BMI, body fat estimated from skinfolds and BIA, and waist circumference, regardless of potential confounders (P ≤ 0.01).”
The researchers took into account and made methodological adjustments to exclude the following confounding factors:
- Sexual maturation
- Total energy intake
- Saturated fat intake
- Fruit and vegetable intake
- Physical activity level
- Tea and coffee consumption
And finally, they repeated the analysis excluding obese and overweight adolescents “Due to the general assumption that individuals with higher levels of adiposity are more likely to underreport dietary intake,” but the results did not change.
So, the obvious question that emerges is how exactly is chocolate reducing ‘fatness,’ to use the researcher’s politically incorrect choice of terminology?
The researchers offer as a possibility that chocolate (especially flavonoid rich, darker varieties) could improve insulin sensitivity and cortisol production, which both can have a beneficial long-term effect on weight maintenance.
They add that while chocolate consumption has traditionally been linked with “sweets, having an abundance of calories in the absence of significant nutrients, and is therefore considered an unhealthy food,” recent reports suggest that chocolate consumption in adults is associated with a lower risk of cardiometabolic disorders due the following physiological actions:
- Anti-inflammatory effects
- Endothelial relaxant (nitric oxide enhancer)
Given the growing body of research on the value of chocolate, regular chocolate lovers such as myself can continue to enjoy our ‘treat,’ and know that it isn’t just generating a momentary high, but may confer real and lasting health benefits. But what should be emphasized is that there are serious draw-backs to mass market chocolate. If it is not organically produced, fair-trade and as dark and unprocessed (raw is best) as is feasible, it won’t be as good for you physically or spiritually. And remember that many seemingly artisan and/or organically-sourced brands such as Dagoba and Green & Black are now owned by multinational corporations whose overall investments are in methods of production that may run counter to the organic and non-GMO movements. So, do your research and choose wisely.