Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Does Eating Chocolate Lead To Greater Weight? Not according to 17 countries (see the data)

Conventional wisdom tells us that chocolate can be a problem for our weight and health. And it doesn’t really matter whether it’s dark chocolate or milk chocolate. 

While darker varieties have more cocoa butter (and so is higher in fat content) the milkier kinds have more sugar. In either case, we are normally coached to avoid this food in order to manage our weight.



So let’s test this 
We can see how this common notion holds up by doing a simple “if-then” experiment. IF chocolate is fattening, THEN those people who ate more of it would weigh more. That’s just common sense. However, if they don’t, then it isn’t.

The key to answering this IF-THEN question is in the design of the study. You can’t just look at a single person who eats chocolate and see whether that person tends to gain or lose weight. That’s because any given person may also be more or less sedentary, more or less likely to overeat, or with a greater or lesser tendency to be overweight in the first place. So, person by person, the effect chocolate has on your weight could be masked by other lifestyle behaviors.

The way out of this little mental muddle is to do a study with enough people in it that those tendencies average out. And an even better way is to test those large populations, and then compare them with other large populations. How large? Let’s say millions of people in each population!  

While everyone would sign up to be a little white lab mouse in that study (chocolate instead of cheese at the end of the maze), no one would fund it because you’d need to pay millions of people to eat pounds and pounds of chocolate year after year.

Fortunately, we don’t have to wait on a research lab to find the money to fund this study. The average per person consumption of chocolate in 16 countries has been assessed already. Even better, the obesity rates in those countries are published as well. I just pulled in all the data, and plotted them against each other.

See the data table to find out YOUR country's obesity rate, and just how much chocolate they're eating per person per year.

The counter-intuitive result
If greater chocolate eating leads to greater weight, then you would expect this plot to slant upward – as chocolate consumption increases, so would obesity. But take a look at this chart, because that’s not what happens. The graph indicates a downward trend: greater chocolate consumption is correlated with a trend to lower weight.

It's research. There are caveats.
Of course there are caveats to this result, as this analysis doesn’t prove that chocolate causes weight loss, it only indicates a tendency. However, maybe there’s some other reason that explains why millions of people (in 16 different countries) who tend to eat more chocolate also tend to weigh less. However, it does agree with other published data showing that consistent chocolate consumption is associated with weight loss in women and in adolescents.

At the very least, the weight of all this weighty evidence on weight suggests that chocolate is may not be the liability to your weight loss efforts that we have been told, and may even help you out there! And that’s just good news all around. 

See How Your Country Ranked 
1) in chocolate consumption and 
2) in obesity!
Country
Per capita consumption kg (2014)
obesity rate
Norway
6.6
10
Switzerland
9
10.3
Sweden
5.4
11.8
Netherlands
4.7
12
Austria
7.8
12.4
Denmark
4.2
13.4
Belgium
5.2
13.8
France
4.2
14.5
Germany
7.9
14.7
Finland
5.3
15.8
Slovakia
5.4
16.9
Estonia
6
19
Ireland
7.5
23
United Kingdom
7.5
24.7
Australia
4.9
28.3
New Zealand
4.5
31.3
USA
4.3
35.3

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).



For more information: Click here to visit Will Clower's website.

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