Everyone who indulges in chocolate was cheered a few days ago by a report from the University of California San Diego Medical School. After analyzing self-reported food intake among more than l,000 adults in Southern California, the lead researcher had some startling results. Eating a small amount of chocolate five or so days each week was associated with a lower BMI (Body Mass Index). To add the chocolate icing onto the brownie, so to speak, the chocolate eaters ate more calories than the non-chocolate eaters and their exercise levels were identical.
Could the newest weight loss supplement be as close as that bowl of Hersey’s kisses next to the television? But before going to Costco and buying bulk chocolate for your next diet, consider this:
1. 70 percent of the people surveyed who ate chocolate several times a week were MEN! Yes,men. Does this mean that women don’t eat chocolate as often as men? Aren’t there any female chocoholics in southern California? I suspect that women, especially those who believed they may be overweight, failed to disclose the amount of chocolate they eat weekly. If I had to put my height and weight on a survey form, I am not sure I would also report how many peanut M and M’s I eat every week (assuming I could remember.).
2. How accurate was the information on food and beverage consumption? People were asked what they typically eat, drink and their portion sizes. According to Dr. Susan Roberts at the Tufts Nutrition Center, self-reports of food intake are almost universally unreliable. In other words, we all lie either intentionally or unintentionally. And those of us who are even a little self-conscious about our weight may shave off a few ounces from our meals and snacks, or conveniently forget anything we ate between 9 and 11 p.m. In other words, unless everyone in the survey was an experienced dieter and knew about portion sizes, under or overstating amounts is almost inevitable. Until food intake is measured, there is no reason to believe that chocolate has some magical power to make people thin, even when they eat enough to stay fat.
Maybe eating chocolate really does help weight loss? If so, it would be easy to see if it is the chocolate or some of the ingredients added to chocolate to make it palatable. Chocolate is very high in sugar and in fat. We know that eating only about 30 grams of sugar is sufficient to turn on the satiety chemical in the brain, i.e.Serotonin, made after sugar or starch are consumed, and it will decrease appetite and food intake. So is it the sugar in the chocolate that does this, or the fat?
Scientists know that fat empties from the stomach more slowly than other nutrients, thus making the eater feel full longer than if he ate lettuce or fat-free cottage cheese. Is it the fat in the chocolate that might be cutting back on subsequent eating?
It would be easy to do the experiment to see if chocolate indeed has the power to bring about weight loss. Volunteers would be given a standard amount of food to eat for meals. Then they could be given chocolate extract that contains no sugar, or no fat, or neither for several weeks to see if there is something in chocolate per se, or it is the sugar or the fat that has an effect on their weight. And if they lose weight, I am going to go out and buy some more M and M’s, anyway and enjoy them.