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unhealthy food; luxury and forbidden fruit; treat and temptation. In their study of health information and food preferences, Wardle and Solomons (4) used the phrase 'naughty but nice' to suggest a paradox between familiar, high-fat foods which are rated as well liked compared to newly formulated, low-fat, healthy foods which are rated as less preferred. Chocolate is a food which fits this label well given its long history, beginning with its unique position as a luxurious drink for the Aztec élite to its introduction to the Spanish aristocracy (5) and its current widespread popularity and general availability. Given 17th-century pronouncements on its aphrodisiac qualities, early restrictions of its use to the élite (see Rossner (6) for a summary) and its first appearance in a British medical directory in 1826 as having medicinal uses (7), chocolate appears to confer upon the consumer more than simple calories. Chocolate, therefore, has a long tradition of specialness and in contemporary Western societies, chocolate is offered in gift-giving rituals across a wide spectrum of circumstances to family and friends, to children, to work associates, and during a variety of religious, family and social occasions. However, in an effort to encourage consumption of chocolate beyond special circumstances or occasions, advertisers promote chocolate as an everyday food item that can be eaten between meals without proportionately reducing caloric intake at meal times, or as a nutritious supplement to meals (7). This means that chocolate occupies different areas of conceptual food space as an occasional luxury, as a frequent treat, as a snack which will help boost energy and as a yearned-for 'unhealthy' food to be avoided. Much of the public conception about chocolate and 'putting on weight' or being 'overweight' reflects personal subjective experiences, which are strongly influenced by these ambiguities. Therefore it is useful, before going further, to define obesity and summarize the factors which are currently thought to cause and contribute to its incidence.


Definitions and Aetiology

Obesity is measured in a number of different ways (8); however the Quetelet index, or body mass index (BMI), which is the ratio of a person's weight (kg) to their height (m2), is in most common use (9). A number of different cut points have been used for the definition of obesity (911), but in general it is adequate to define three stages of obesity: stage 1 or overweight, with a BMI ranging from 2530; stage 2 or clinical obesity, with a BMI ranging from 3040; and stage 3 or morbid obesity, with a BMI greater than 40. Other ways of defining obesity which directly measure the percentage body fat become particularly important in sports men and women who may have a high body weight for height due to a high muscle mass (muscle is heavier than fat tissue).

A tendency towards 'central obesity', which may be assessed as waist circumference divided by height, or waist/hip ratios, is more highly related to ill health than is BMI (12). So whilst central obesity may be the more relevant public

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