Your Chocolate Dream Come True?

(Thank you to my friend Arline for telling me about this study!)

Sit back ladies and enjoy this intriguing ride.  Findings from a recent investigation should have my baby boomer friends jumping for joy!  That’s because researchers in Spain wanted to look at the health benefits of eating lots of milk chocolate…wait, what?  Well hold tight, because their results will leave you gobsmacked*.

It seems if you eat milk chocolate during specific times of the day, there could be some surprising positive wellness outcomes (and no weight gain).  To me, that makes this study worthy of a closer look.

Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (Boston) worked with their counterparts at the University of Murcia to investigate milk chocolate’s effects on health.  They enlisted 19 postmenopausal women (average age 52) who ate 100 grams of milk chocolate daily during one small window of time for two weeks:

  • either within 1 hour of waking, OR
  • within 1 hour of going to bed

The women consumed no other chocolate, and otherwise maintained their normal eating habits throughout the day.

Before we go any further, please note that 100 grams of milk chocolate contains 535 calories!  Yikes, that’s enough to keep me away from this study.  And we’ve all heard about the benefits of dark chocolate—antioxidants, caffeine–to name a few. But the possibility that these food components might sway the research findings, along with the fact that milk chocolate is preferred in Spain, where the study occurred, led investigators to concentrate only on the sweeter chocolate cousin.

Here are the results:

  • The AM chocolate eaters decreased food intake by 300 calories after adding the sweets to their diet.
  • The PM chocolate eaters decreased food intake by 150 calories.
  • Neither group gained weight, despite the 500+ calorie treat, and the net gain in calories.
  • The morning group experienced increased fat burning, likely due to a “decreased hunger and desire for sweets” throughout the day.
  • The AM group also reduced waist circumference by 1.7%, and blood sugar levels by 4.4%.
  • The evening group increased their exercise levels by 6.9%.

OK, it’s starting to sound impressive.

But let’s look at this study on a more macro level.

1)  This was a small group of participants, and the study was a relatively short period of time.

2)  The researchers only looked at women, postmenopausal.  What about men, older or younger women? And are the results statistically significant?

3)  Chocolate consumption had to be limited to specific morning and nighttime hours.  No indulging  throughout the day.

4)  The candy consumption could have affected other blood measures, including lipids (triglycerides, cholesterol—HDL, LDL, etc).  These were not examined in this study.

5)  And let’s look at the nutritional composition of 100 grams of milk chocolate: almost 30 grams of fat, more than 14 grams saturated fat, and 51 grams of sugar.  That’s a bit scary.  To put those numbers in perspective, that’s about 45% of the recommended fat intake for a 2,000 calorie diet, more than 60% of the saturated fat recommendation, and twice the sugar recommended by the American Heart Association.

More studies are definitely needed before any strong conclusions/recommendations can be extrapolated to the general public.  (But I do wonder how I might enlist in that follow-up research!)

So if you want to see how you fare on this meal plan, proceed with caution, for a short time.  But enjoy the ride…how could you possibly not?  I for one, after enduring the craziness of a monthlong keto diet a few years ago, will probably join the milk chocolate bandwagon sometime next month.  Stay tuned!

For more ways to fit chocolate into a healthy eating pattern, reach out to me.

*Gobsmacked, I love this word: utterly astonished; astounded.

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