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Why Cutting Out Chocolate May be a Bad Dieting Tip for You

Tim Boyer's picture
chocolates and dieting

Although many diets recommend cutting chocolate out of your daily diet, a new published study explains one reason why this just may be a bad dieting tip for you.


When it comes to chocolate, dieters are often given mixed messages. In some reports, dieters are told that chocolate should be avoided due to the high sugar and fat content typically found in milk chocolate. In other reports, chocolate is recommended due to its antioxidant content that can prevent or reduce fat-depositing inflammation processes.

Earlier this year, a study was widely distributed that claimed that eating chocolate accelerated weight loss while on a low carb diet. More recently, that same study was revealed to have been a hoax to point out the gullibility of readers and make claims of a lack of fact checking and due diligence by the media.

So what’s a dieter to believe…and do?

The safer bet appears to be to cut out chocolate snacks entirely, which makes sense because there’s no denying that the fat and sugar content in most chocolate snacks are a weighty problem for many of us―especially those of us who are admittedly addicted to chocolate.

But not so fast there. According to a new study published in the journal Obesity, cutting out chocolate leads to increased eating behavior in some people.

This study points to earlier research that examined ingestive behavior (our eating habits) in both men and women that found that restricting snacks—in particular chocolate snacks—leads to significantly increased cravings for chocolate over other snack types.

To examine this ingestive behavior a little further, the authors of the new study decided to see how knowing that a person is about to enter a period of no-chocolate eating affects how they consume chocolate and other foods before and after the no-chocolate period.

Basically, here’s how the study was performed:

Eighteen male and thirty-eight female chocolate lovers were enrolled in a study that they were told was investigating the effects of different snack types on blood pressure. This ruse is referred to as a single-blind study type that attempts to prevent test subjects from skewing the data should they change their eating habits based on what they believe the study is truly about.

The test subjects were given bags of snacks during the first week of the study; of which, the uneaten portions were weighed and noted as data. On the 2nd week, the test subjects were told that during weeks 3 through 5 that chocolate snacks were not allowed due to a fictitious reason that a component of chocolate called theobromine may influence blood pressure readings. Week 2 is referred to as the “pre-restriction consumption” period.

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During weeks 3 through 5, participants were allowed to select from non-chocolate snacks such as sweet candies, salty snacks and dried fruits. Weeks 3 through 5 were referred to as the “chocolate restriction period.” To ensure the test subjects would not cheat on their chocolate restriction, the test subjects were told that their saliva samples would reveal if they have been eating chocolate.

On week 6 of the study, the test subjects were told that the researchers wanted to see how theobromine from chocolate would affect their blood pressure, so chocolate snack choices were reinstituted and participants could eat as they pleased. This period was referred to as the “post-chocolate restriction period.”

After week six ended, the researchers completed their data collecting and analysis and found that the chocolate lovers could be pigeonholed into two groups: those that were more compulsive type eaters and those who were less so. The more compulsive eaters were labeled as “Highly disinhibited participants” and the less so were labeled as “Low disinhibited participants.”

The primary finding was that the “Highly disinhibited participants” were significantly more likely to consume more calories than the “Low disinhibited participants” were, when faced with an upcoming period of no chocolate allowed and going through a period subsequently without chocolate. In other words, the “Highly disinhibited participants” were compensating by eating more calories than normal when faced with chocolate restriction.

The researchers concluded that, “This study suggests that for some individuals, restriction of a preferred food like chocolate may be contraindicated for energy restriction and weight management.”

So there we have it—while foregoing chocolate while dieting may seem like sound dieting advice, in some dieters it may have the wrong effect on them and lead to weight gain rather than weight loss. The authors of the study do note that there are limitations to the exactness of the study, but believe that their data does indicate that high disinhibited individuals may benefit from practicing moderation rather than outright restriction of chocolate. This in reality is what health experts have been promoting all along—the need for moderation in diet of all food types to successfully control a person’s weight.

For more about the benefits of chocolate, here is some informative chocolate-related advice:

“Two Cups of Hot Chocolate a Day Keeps the Neurologist Away”

“Dieters Pay Attention: Healthy Chocolate Fat Problem Solved”

“How This Woman Lost 56 Inches with a Special Smoothie”

Reference: “Anticipatory and reactive responses to chocolate restriction in frequent chocolate consumers” Obesity 2015 Jun; 23 (6):1130-5; Keeler CL et al.