Health Buzz: Does Chocolate Keep You Thin?

America’s 10 least obese cities; 6 surprising behaviors that age you

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Study: Chocolate Lovers May Weigh Less

Promising news, chocoholics: Indulging may be good for your waistline. In a study involving more than 1,000 volunteers, researchers compared chocolate consumption with body mass index, a measure of body fat based on height and weight. They found that those who had chocolate the most frequently had a lower BMI than those who consumed it the least. The body mass index of people who had chocolate five times a week, for example, was 1 point lower than people who did not eat it regularly, which translates to 5 fewer pounds for someone 5 feet tall and 7 pounds for someone 5-foot-10. Findings were published Monday in the Archives of Internal Medicine. The study authors say the findings are likely explained by chocolate's metabolic benefits, or properties that slightly increase metabolism and help the body burn extra calories. "It's not the case that eating the largest amount of chocolate is beneficial; it's that eating it more often was favorable," study author Beatrice Golomb, an associate professor of medicine at the University of California-San Diego, told the New York Times. "If you eat 10 pounds of chocolate a day, that's not going to be a favorable thing."

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  • Obesity Facts: America's 10 Least Obese Cities

    If you want to be skinny, surround yourself with skinny. A Gallup-Healthways poll released this month reveals that, overall, our nation's cities are getting fatter. But the 10 least-obese areas are bucking that trend, with an average obesity rate of 15.9 percent, well below the national average of 26.1, and half that of the country's fattest areas.

    So what are places like San Francisco and Naples, Fla., doing right? They offer easy access to fresh fruits and veggies, as well as safe places to exercise, say experts. And their residents have health insurance and make enough money to buy wholesome food for themselves and for their families. What's more, says cardiologist James Pope, chief science officer of Healthways, a Tennessee-based provider of health and wellness programs offered through health insurers, "people are less likely to become obese if their friends and acquaintances are not obese." In other words, healthful living can be contagious.

    And it's good to be a slim city. These areas report roughly 30 percent fewer cases of diabetes than do their obese counterparts. And people in fat cities are 58 percent more likely to have a heart attack, 34 percent more likely to have high blood pressure, 30 percent more likely to be depressed, and 23 percent more likely to have high cholesterol over the course of their lifetime, the new findings suggest. [Read more: Obesity Facts: America's 10 Least Obese Cities.]

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    • 6 Surprising Behaviors That Age You

      When you think of factors that prematurely age you, your mind probably turns to smoking, overeating, or excessive stress. And if you've been following the news, you might add tanning to the list (it makes you more susceptible to skin cancer—and we won't even get started on the wrinkles and sun spots.) But what you might not know is that your exercise patterns, listening habits, and even your cooking style can negatively affect your life. Luckily, you can make changes. Read on for tips on how to counteract these six surprising behaviors that age you:

      1. Overheating your food. Think twice before constantly grilling and frying your meals. Foods cooked at high temperatures can produce compounds that increase inflammation, which damages the body's cells and is increasingly fingered as a driver of many diseases, such as cancer. The highest levels of these compounds, called advanced glycation end products (AGEs), are in fatty foods and meats (think steak), while the lowest levels are in carbohydrate-rich foods like vegetables, says Melina Jampolis, a physician nutrition specialist and author of The Calendar Diet: A Month by Month Guide to Losing Weight While Living Your Life. "Longer cooking time, higher heat, and less moisture during cooking affect levels formed," she explains. Just like the acronym states, AGEs are thought to speed up the aging process, and they have been linked to heart disease, diabetes, and other age-related diseases, she says. Try cutting back on fast food, processed-packaged foods, and higher-fat meats, and eating fruits and veggies rich in antioxidants, like grapefruit and spinach, to prevent the formation of AGEs, she says. (Drinking tea and a little red wine counts, too.) Also helpful: Cooking foods at lower temperatures for longer periods of time, and increasing moisture during cooking. So steam that shrimp instead of sautéing it! [Read more: 6 Surprising Behaviors That Age You.]