Nearly every health website is proudly sharing a new study “that chocoholics will love,” wherein researchers found that chocolate eaters have a lower BMI compared to those who don’t indulge in it regularly. Headlines range from “Chocolate May Help You Stay Slim” to “Eating Lots of Chocolate Helps People Stay Thin“—which is misleading in itself: Though study authors found a correlation between weight and the frequency of chocolate eating, there’s absolutely no reason to think that chocolate is a miracle weight loss drug.
The study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, analyzed 1,000 men and women who were free of diabetes, high cholesterol or heart disease, who were also participating in a study about the effects of statins. Researchers surveyed the participants about their frequency of chocolate consumption, among other lifestyle factors. On average, they ate chocolate twice a week and exercised about 3.5 times per week, but those who ate chocolate more than twice a week had a lower BMI.
The study authors have admitted that this isn’t reason to go out and load up on Easter candy daily, but they have suggested that their results might be evidence that chocolate’s antioxidants and other ingredients may promote weight loss. Which is some pretty lazy science if you ask me.
The study didn’t have controls, it didn’t test a wide range of subjects, and the scale of the study was far too small to make broad assumptions about cause and effect. The study didn’t take into account what type of chocolate participants ate (was it cake? hot chocolate? a nibble of 90% cocoa?), or what the rest of their diet looked like. And although all participants were free of many common chronic diseases to begin with, they didn’t take into account any real measures of health—they only looked at weight.
Sure, eating (the right kind of) chocolate as a small indulgence can be a healthy habit, given its antioxidants and health benefits. But will it make you skinny? Not any more than an ergonomic chair is going to help you sculpt a six-pack.