The Morning Chocolate

Morning Chocolate Miracles? Not Quite

“Eating chocolate for breakfast can supercharge your weight loss!” This headline and many more came from a new paper in the FASEB Journal. In fact, Altmetric tells us this paper has so far generated 113 stories from 93 news outlets. In less than two weeks since publication, it has grabbed attention that puts it in the top five percent of all research Altmetric tracks. But there’s just one little problem. The subjects did not lose weight in this study of morning chocolate.

In fact, this study of just 19 postmenopausal White females doesn’t document much in the way of any important health outcomes. And with only 19 subjects, it’s not clear the study can tell us anything about the health effects of eating chocolate.

A Randomized Crossover Study

This study had a randomized crossover design that ordinarily would be impressive. However, the protocol did not have a prospective registration. That sounds like a technicality, but it really does make a difference. When publishing a protocol for a controlled study like this, researchers specify what their objectives are before they do the research.

These researchers did their research in 2016 and finished it in 2017. But they did not publish their protocol on until 2019. So they put their objectives for this research on the public record only after they had their results.

Even so, looking at their retrospective protocol, this research came up with a null result on each of two primary outcome measures – resting energy expenditure and total body weight. They found no difference between consuming chocolate in the morning, in the evening, or not at all.

So no, there’s no evidence here that chocolate will “supercharge” your weight loss.

Magical Thinking Meets Nutrition Research

We’re grateful to the OEO Offerings for decoding the spin in reporting on this study. But we’re surprised that FASEB would publish this study without asking the authors to make it clear that their study failed on both of its primary outcomes.

Instead, the authors leaned upon secondary outcomes to suggest that they had proven their hypothesis – that timing of chocolate consumption could have an effect on factors related to metabolic function. They wrote in conclusion:

“Results highlight that the ‘when’ we eat is a relevant factor to consider in energy balance and metabolism.”

Maybe this is true. But the present study does not provide persuasive evidence for such a conclusion. Yet it sparked a flood of outrageously misleading headlines about magical weight loss benefits from eating chocolate in the morning. When magical thinking mixes with nutrition research, it helps no one.

Such poppycock is not a good look for the FASEB Journal.

Click here for the paper and here for reporting on a prior chocolate weight loss science scam that this brings to mind.

The Morning Chocolate, painting by Pietro Longhi / WikiArt

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July 5, 2021