NEW YORK (CBS NEWS) – What’s the best way to stay thin? A new study finds it’s exercising and eating a healthy diet full of… chocolate?

The study found that people who frequently ate chocolate had a lower body mass index (BMI) than people who did not. So, is it time to ditch fat-free for fudge?

For the study, published in the March 26 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers examined more than 1,000 healthy men and women who were free of heart disease, diabetes and cholesterol problems. They were all enrolled in another study that measured the effects of cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, but for this study researchers assigned them questionnaires that gauged how often participants chowed down on chocolate.

The researchers found that the participants — who were an average age of 57 — ate chocolate for an average of twice of week and exercised roughly 3.5 times per week. But the more frequent chocolate-eaters had smaller BMIs, a ratio of height and weight that’s used to measure obesity. What explains the effect? Even though chocolate can be loaded with calories, it is also full of antioxidants and other ingredients that may promote weight loss, the researchers said.

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