When I saw the headlines, “Chocolate Causes Osteoporosis” I knew I was in trouble. As expected I came into the office to tons of emails from chocolate lovers everywhere who wanted to know if their love affair with their creamy sweetie was at an end. It especially hit home when my own mother told me that she was giving up her occasional chocolate square because she read the news that her bones were damned if she didn’t cease consuming chocolate entirely.
So what is the deal?
In a recent study, scientists evaluated the food diaries of over one thousand senior women (ages 70-85). After evaluating the records and comparing a number of variables to bone density it was discovered that women who ate chocolate one time or more daily had weaker bones than those who ate it less than once a week. In fact the group who ate chocolate daily had bone densities that were 3.1% lower than their counterparts who ate chocolate less than once per week.
Thus the headlines…Chocolate Causes Osteoporosis.
So does chocolate cause osteoporosis? Not likely. This study is considered preliminary research because it does not show cause and effect. Although the statistics show a correlation between chocolate and bone loss, there are just too many other factors (perhaps thousands) that can account for the findings that chocolate eaters have lower bone density. For instance, is it possible that people who eat chocolate daily take less care of themselves compared to people who eat it once a week? In my book, daily chocolate consumption suggests either a lack of health knowledge or a disregard for health and fitness. Is it then feasible that the group who eats chocolate daily also eats other acidic foods, sugary foods, drinks more sodas, exercises less, etc?
Of Course! This study falls into a class of research called observational or epidemiological research which is considered the weakest form of study. This type of research commonly acts as the launching board for more expensive and involved double blind research. In the case of chocolate, I doubt we will see this type of research completed.
Is it possible that these findings are accurate? Is it possible that there is some compound in chocolate that causes bone loss? As a scientist, I must concede the possibility, however, it is highly unlikely! Should we eat chocolate daily? Of course not, at least not in quantity, but should my dear mother, who eats well, takes her supplements, goes to her daily “Guts and Butts” exercise class avoid her chocolate square once or twice a week…No! She is 73 years old and deserves to enjoy her chocolate square and it is unfortunate that many people will likely fall prey to this ploy to sell newspapers.