People who ate chocolate a few times a week or more weighed less than those who rarely indulged, new research suggests.
The findings come from a study of nearly 1,000 US people that looked at diet, calorie intake and body mass index (BMI) - a measure of obesity.
It found that those who ate chocolate a few times a week were, on average, slimmer than those who ate it occasionally.
Researchers said the findings, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, don't prove that adding a candy bar to your daily diet will help you shed pounds. Nor did the total amount of chocolate consumed have an impact.
But the researchers, led by Beatrice Golomb, from the University of California San Diego, said it was possible that antioxidants in chocolate could be behind health benefits including lower blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as decreased body weight.
“People have just assumed that because it comes with calories and it's typically eaten as a sweet, therefore it would inherently have been one way, bad,” said Golomb.
She and her colleagues used data from a study on cholesterol-lowering drugs that surveyed 1,000 healthy adults on typical eating habits, including how often they ate chocolate.
The participants, who ranged from 20 to 85 years old, ate chocolate on an average of twice per week and had an average body mass index, or BMI, of 28, which is considered overweight but not obese.
The researchers found that people who ate chocolate with greater frequency tended to eat more calories overall, including more saturated fat, than those who went light on the candy. But even so, chocolate lovers tended to have a lower body weight.
“Our findings appear to add to information suggesting that the composition of calories, not just the number of them, matters for determining their ultimate impact on weight”, said Golomb.
“This certainly does not provide support for eating large amounts of chocolate,” Golomb said. “For those of us who do eat a little bit of chocolate regularly, perhaps any guilt associated with that might be qualified.”