Katharine Hepburn complimented on her slim body, said. “What you see before you is the result of a lifetime of chocolate.” It turns out she was on to something.
Researchers now suspect the calories in chocolate are not like “normal’ calories”. They appear to make your metabolism work harder, which means they offset the fat that might otherwise have stayed around.
The findings were an unexpected discovery from a study of the eating habits of 972 men and women with an average age of 57 funded by the National Institutes of Health. Their BMI, relationship of weight to height, was 28 which meant they were overweight.
They didn’t have any known heart problems but were asked diet and lifestyle questions including: “How many times a week do you consume chocolate?” The surprising result: those who ate chocolate on more days of the week were statistically likely to have lower weight and a lower BMI.
This was in spite of the fact that the people who ate more chocolate did not consume fewer calories overall, or take more exercise. In fact they ate more. Their chocolate consumption was associated with greater overall saturated fat intake from other sources. Health benefits may be linked to eating some chocolate more times a week, rather than the amount consumed in a week.
Epicatechin, one chemical derived from the chocolate ingredient cocoa, has been shown to boost numbers of mitochondria, the cells’ energy-generating “power houses.” Mitochondria burn up calories and epicatechin reduced weight in rats whose calorie intake and exercise levels were unchanged. Another antioxidant ingredient theo bromine is a stimulant. The researchers warn the study’s findings may not apply to all products containing chocolate and do not rule out the possibility that some people can put on weight with frequent modest chocolate consumption.
But the results, published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine, broadly fit with previous research on rats showing benefits from some chemicals found in chocolate, including speeding up the metabolism.
Dr Beatrice Golomb, from the University of California at San Diego, said: ‘Our findings appear to add to a body of information suggesting that the composition of calories, not just the number of them, matters for determining their ultimate impact on weight.
Other studies have found that the benefits of chocolate can include a drop in the risk of heart disease and strokes, a reduction in blood pressure.
Many nutritionists have been recommending an ounce of chocolate a day. Dark chocolate has a higher concentration of antioxidants than milk chocolate. This study did not address the type of chocolate consumed.