A new study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine finds that men and women who consume chocolate on a regular basis tend to have a lower body mass index (BMI) than those who eat chocolate infrequently.
The research study tested the BMI of 1,018 men and women in San Diego, Calif., between the ages of 20 and 85. None of the test subjects had a known history of cardiovascular disease or diabetes.
But before you grab a family-size candy bar, it's worth noting that the study only found a link between lower BMI and those who eat chocolate frequently, not hard evidence that chocolate contributes to weight loss or personal health. And as the BBC notes, the results are based on the frequency of chocolate consumption, not on the total amount of chocolate consumed.
"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," the study's lead author, Dr. Beatrice Golomb, wrote.
Chocolate has previously been linked to health benefits, particularly dark chocolate. A peer-reviewed study in the Chemistry Central Journal said that cocoa actually contains more antioxidants than other "superfoods" like blueberries, cranberries or acai.
However, the reputation of the BMI itself has come under scrutiny in recent years. As this 2004 New York Times article noted, then-President George W. Bush was technically listed as "overweight" by the BMI's own standards. And Bush is well-known for his commitment to physical fitness, having been an avid runner and cyclist.
"Body mass is an index from which you start to make an evaluation of an individual," obesity researcher Dr. George Bray told the Times. "The meaning of BMI has to be modulated by other factors, including age, gender, physical activity, race and central fat distribution," he said.
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