Our daughter Sophie arrived home from college today to spend the better part of a month in Denver.  While am I am immensely happy to have her home, I confess to being fascinated with a present she brought home for us.  On a recent field trip with a botany class, she stopped in for a tour of the Taza Chocolate plant and brought us home various samples of ‘stone ground’ chocolate.  It’s quite a bit different than the classic European style chocolates that we are accustomed to that are roller milled to a velvety smooth consistency.  This stuff is gritty.  I’m not sure if I like it yet so have to keep going back for another taste.  See http://www.tazachocolate.com/

While I’m sitting here thinking about chocolate, I should take a moment or two and tell you about a recent paper that was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine

Put simply, it tells us that frequent chocolate consumption is associated with lower BMI.

People who eat chocolate more frequently are thinner according to this study published March 26.

Beatrice Golomb, and coauthors from the University of California, San Diego, used data collected in a study being run to investigate the effects of cholesterol lowering drugs and used this information to see if there was an association between Body Mass Index (BMI) and chocolate consumption.

BMI is a calculated number used to measure obesity.  It is calculated by dividing a person’s weight (in kilograms) by their height (in meters) squared.  People with a BMI calculated to be greater than greater than 25 are considered overweight.

[More information about BMI and an online calculator: http://www.nhlbisupport.com/bmi/%5D

Participants in the study had completed detailed food questionnaires that provided information on both the frequency and quantity of chocolate eaten.  The average age of the participants was 57 and their mean BMI was 28.   They ate chocolate on average twice a week and exercised 3-4 times per week.  The more often people ate chocolate, the more total calories and total saturated fat they consumed.  Yet the more often they ate chocolate the thinner they were!

This effect was independent of how often they exercised or how many vegetables they ate.

The more frequently participants reported eating chocolate, the lower their BMI was.  The quantity of chocolate eaten was not associated with BMI.

In the last few years, researchers have reported that eating chocolate appears to prevent high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.  These effects are seen even though chocolate is high in saturated fat and has sugar added to it.  Various natural chemicals found in chocolate are given credit for the health benefits in particular the polyphenols and catechins.  A particular group of chemicals called epicatechins are likely responsible for chocolate’s effects on weight.  These chemicals are closely related to epigallocatechin found in green tea and are thought to act as appetite suppressants and to stimulate cells to burn more energy.  Snacking on small amounts of chocolate frequently apparently reduces total calorie consumption and increases calories burned, leading to weight loss.

A similar effect is reported for those who eat nuts regularly.  Snacking on nuts also lowers weight and improves cholesterol readings. Remember it’s not the quantity of chocolate but the frequency one eats it according to this study.

Though hard to believe, snacking on chocolate covered almonds could be part of your new formula for weight loss.

Go ahead pinch your self, you’re not dreaming.

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