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Unashamedly chocoholic.

Following my recent indulgence at a local Maison du Chocolat, I decided that the time had come to find out whether all this chocolate is good for me, so I headed for the online science journal PLoS ONE to see what research has been done on the matter recently.

I am delighted to report that I found three recent papers that not only provided an excellent update on this important topic but also, I believe, point the direction in which future investigations should go.

The first paper I came across was called "Habitual chocolate consumption may increase body weight in a dose-response manner".

I think this means that eating chocolate makes you fat and the more you eat, the fatter you get.

At first sight, this may seem discouraging but I cheered up on reading that the research was conducted in response to three earlier papers showing that chocolate consumption was associated with lower body weight.

Putting these together seems to suggest that fat people eat less chocolate because they think it was chocolate that made them fat in the first place and it's time they did something about it.

This leaves slimmer people eating more chocolate than fat people. Of course, it is also possible that overweight people eat less chocolate because they are stuffing themselves with too much fast food and have no room for chocolate.

The next paper I found was called "Startling sweet temptations: Hedonic chocolate deprivation modulates experience, eating behaviour and eyeblink startle".

The message here seemed to be that if you deprive someone of chocolate, they may become irritable, experience symptoms of frustration and be more easily startled by sudden images or noises.

Giving up chocolate may therefore lead to weight loss in the short term but all that irritability, frustration and startled blinking is then liable to make them seek solace in the form of chocolate.

So why not, you may well ask, get these people to munch on an apple to cheer them up instead of heading for the nearest overdose of chocolate?

The problems of such an approach, however, are to be found in the third paper I discovered, which was called "Choosing between an apple and a chocolate bar: The impact of health and taste labels".

Subjects in this experiment were given the choice between an apple and a bar of chocolate but the apples came with a label attached.

That label contained one of five messages: "apple", "healthy apple", "succulent apple", "healthy and succulent apple" or "succulent and healthy apple".

The results showed that the last two labels made people far more likely to pick the apple than the earlier ones.

"Healthy and succulent" was best of all, resulting in 62.5 per cent of people picking the apple, compared with only 50 per cent when it just said "apple".

To be fair, they should have had labels on the chocolate too. If they wish to do that experiment, I shall happily volunteer to take part.

And I shall always select the chocolate saying "delicious and slimming".

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Publication:Gulf Daily News (Manama, Bahrain)
Date:Jan 28, 2014
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