Eating chocolate more frequently has been linked to lower body mass index in a new study – regardless of total calories consumed per day or time spent exercising.

Certain types of chocolate have been linked to various health benefits before including boosting one’s mood and lowering blood pressure.  However, chocolate is typically high in calories, which means it has long been considered a diet-buster.

In a study of more than 1,000 people, Dr. Beatrice Golomb and her colleagues at the University of California, San Diego, challenge that theory, finding that people who consumed chocolate more days per week were thinner – and had a lower BMI – than those who ate chocolate less often.

Furthermore, those who ate chocolate more often actually ate more calories per day on average and did not exercise more than the others.

The participants were all relatively healthy, with no known history of cardiovascular disease, diabetes or extremes of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) levels.  They were asked to report their weekly chocolate consumption on a questionnaire.

The researchers described the findings as “modest, but significant” – meaning the effect was larger than could be described y chance.  They could not find any differences in behaviors that could explain the phenomenon.

"Our findings appear to add to a body of information suggesting that the composition of calories, not just the number of them, matters for determining their ultimate impact on weight," Golomb concluded. "In the case of chocolate, this is good news –both for those who have a regular chocolate habit, and those who may wish to start one."

The study was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, a JAMA/Archives journal.