That headline was catchy, right? You’d love to believe you could eat chocolate and not have to exercise.

Well, a recent study claims eating dark chocolate in “small quantities” emulates the effects of exercise. Researchers in Detroit found that epicatechin, a plant compound in chocolate, appeared to stimulate the same muscle response as vigorous aerobic exercise such as running or cycling. When small amounts were eaten in combination with exercise, performance was boosted by 50 percent.

Every few months, it seems a new study comes out proclaiming chocolate is good for you. Research has linked eating dark chocolate to lowered blood pressure and highlighted its high levels of flavanol, an antioxidant that helps reverse the effect of cell damaging free radicals.

For more, here’s Dr. Moh Malek, Lead Researcher and Director of Integrative Physiology of Exercise Laboratory at Wayne State University, Detroit.

 

What did you find about how chocolate affects the body in relation to exercise?

We found that the compound epicatechin increases mitochondria and capillaries in muscle. As a result, the group receiving epicatechin were able to exercise longer than the groups that did not get epicatechin or only exercised. However, we also found that the combination of exercise and epicatechin produced the best effects in the muscle.

Does it affect women differently than men?

Right now we don't know. Future studies are needed for us to be able to answer this question.

Does this mean I can replace my workout routine with a bag of M&Ms?

No. This study showed that the combination of epicatechin and exercise provided the best effects. Also, this study was conducted in mice, not humans, therefore, human studies are needed in order to determine if our findings in animal models can be translated in humans.

It seems like studies are always trying to prove that chocolate is good for you. Are you scientists not just pandering to chocoholics?

No, absolutely not.

But research like this often gets picked up with the headline: ‘Forget the gym.’ Is that irresponsible science? Or irresponsible journalism?

The study showed that the combination of exercise and epicatechin produced the best effects in the muscles. It is the journalists’ responsibility to present the findings in a responsible format.

Thanks doctor. Food for thought while we do some “research” of our own.

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