Eating chocolate may make people thinner, suggested a new study that found that people who ate chocolate more frequently were actually thinner than those who eat it less often.

The latest findings showed that despite chocolate containing more calories than many other foods, making researchers suspect that the calories from chocolate may not be like normal calories, and may in fact induce the body to work harder leading to reduced fat deposition per calorie, offsetting the added calories. 

While chocolate has also been linked to various health benefits such as enhancing mood and lowering blood pressure, researchers now believe that the metabolic effects of the particular ingredients in chocolate also make the sweet snack an ideal slimming food because it is calorie-neutral. 

“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,” Lead investigator Dr. Beatrice Golomb, from the University of California at San Diego said in a statement released on Monday. “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 analyzed data from 972 people ages 20 to 85 in San Diego who had no cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or extreme levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol.  Participants were asked to complete a food frequency questionnaire and researchers measured their body mass index. The participants had an average age of 57 years, a body mass index of 28, ate chocolate twice a week and exercised 3.6 times a week.

Researchers found that people who ate chocolate on more days of the week than average were significantly more likely to have a lower BMI than those who did not, despite exercising just as frequently and eating the same amount of calories as those who did not eat as much chocolate.

However, investigators stressed that their findings only applied to the frequency of chocolate consumption, and there was no association between the amounts of chocolate eaten to higher or lower BMI, according to the findings published in the medical journal Archives of Internal Medicine.

The findings show that each additional time a week a participant ate chocolate was associated with lowering body mass index by about a fifth of a point, so by eating chocolate five times a week, compared to not eating any was linked to about a one-point drop in body mass index. 

Golomb told MedPge Today that the BMI link to chocolate would amount to about a seven pound drop for a person that was 5' 10", or about five pounds for a person who was 5 feet tall.

Researchers also found that more frequent chocolate consumption was significantly associated with greater calorie and saturate fat intake and higher scores on the depression scale, all of which are typically associated with increased body mass index. 

Some experts warned that because the study was based on self-reports, and overweight or obese are often found to under-report their food intake, the higher BMI group may have under-reported their chocolate intake and the lower BMI group may have over-estimated the total number of calories they had consumed.