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Can Chocolate Make You Thin?

New research suggests that frequent consumption of chocolate may be related to lower body-mass index.
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In recent years, a growing body of research has pointed to the benefits of chocolate — it’s loaded with antioxidants and improves everything from blood pressure to cholesterol levels — and now, according to a new study, it might also make you thinner.

Published today in the Archives of Internal Medicine, the study asked 1,017 subjects how many times a week they ate chocolate. Researchers then determined the Body Mass Index (a measure of body fat based on height and weight) for 972 of those subjects.

“Adults who consume chocolate more frequently had a lower BMI than those who consumed chocolate less often,” note the authors, who were led by Dr. Beatrice A. Golomb at the University of California, San Diego. This is true for men and women of all ages, regardless of the amount of chocolate eaten, and wasn’t linked to higher rates of exercise by the subjects.

Causation and correlation are two very different things, and the study’s authors hedge their findings, saying that, “causality in the observed association cannot be presumed.”

But, in studies on mice, epicatechin, a compound in cacao, has been shown to increase lean muscle mass and to reduce weight without changing calories. “Parallel processes in humans, if present, could underlie our findings,” the researchers note.

Maybe that chocolate Easter bunny isn’t such a bad idea.