Chocolate cannot help people lose weight, despite a news story which had media outlets reporting the health benefits of this sweet treat. Instead, the fake news story was dreamed up by a journalist, who wanted to teach media outlets about the importance of proper reporting on issues of nutrition.

John Bohannon, a science journalist with a Ph.D. in molecular biology, carried out the deception that fooled some of the top reporters in the world. He and his team did carry out a study examining real people involved in an actual clinical trial, and results were based on real data. However, the study was conducted in such a way that the results were meaningless.

Peter Onneken and Diana Löbl, television reporters from Germany, contacted Bohannon, telling him they were working on a program showing how easy it is for junk science to create health food fads.

The trio recruited a German doctor, a statistician, and subjects. The "study" had to be completed in just two months, due to television deadlines. Just 16 people were enrolled, ages 19 to 67, which included 11 women and five men. They were placed in three groups - one-third ate a low-carb diet with chocolate, the second group ate few carbs but no chocolate, and the third group did not alter their diet at all.

After data was manipulated by the statistician (a financial analyst), the results looked like those people on low-carb diets lost an average of 5 pounds, and those who ate chocolate lost weight 10 percent faster than those who did not consume the sweet treat. The small sample size of subjects in the story created false results.

The International Archives of Medicine reported a study on March 24, 2015, stating chocolate assisted subjects in shedding pounds.

"We science journalists like to think of ourselves as more clever than the average hack. After all, we have to understand arcane scientific research well enough to explain it. And for reporters who don't have science chops, as soon as they tapped outside sources for their stories ... they would discover that the study was laughably flimsy," Bohannon wrote in an article admitting his deception.

Bohannon also previously conducted a "sting operation" exposing many subscription open-access journals for their lack of proper peer review. During that experiment on the media, he sent out falsified research to the publications, and more than half the articles were accepted by publishers.

"Consumption of chocolate with a high cocoa content can significantly increase the success of weight-loss diets. The weight-loss effect of this diet occurs with a certain delay. Long-term weight loss, however, seems to occur easier and more successfully by adding chocolate," the article reported.

The story ran on some of the world's largest media outlets, including the Daily Mail in England and Bild (the largest newspaper in Europe). The story made the cover of Shape magazine, and was covered on a wide range of television programs. Tech Times was not one of the media outlets covering the original story.

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