A viral health claim that eating chocolate could help one lose 10% weight is found to have been an elaborate hoax planned out by a journalist.
The viral health advice, which was first featured on the front page of Bild, Europe's largest daily newspaper, claimed that a German study found that eating chocolate can help you not only "reduce your waistline", but also "lower your cholesterol and help you sleep."
The viral prank went on to claim that the study was published in the International Archives of Medicine. However, in reality International Archives of Medicine was used as a bait by John Bohannon, a German science journalist. to
He posed as the fictitious research director of the Institute of Diet and Health (which is also a made-up website) going by the name, Johannes, to expose how science journals would publish studies for a 'hefty' fee.
The name was cited by several top publications across the globe and the health story fooled a dozen renowned media houses across the globe including Cosmopolitan Germany, UK's Daily Star, Irish national daily newspaper Irish Examiner, India's Times of India, and Texas-based outlet KTRE to name a few.
For the past several months, the false study has been in circulation and the truth was revealed recently after John Bohannon the man behind the hoax debunked the study on io9.com.
"[The] health claims that the media blasted out to millions of people around the world are utterly unfounded," Bohannon revealed.
The entire hoax was planned out to expose "junk science," claimed the German science journalist, who collaborated with TV producer, Peter Onneken and Diana Löbl and others for a documentary film.
The team, which previously had conducted a sting on unscrupulous open-access journals, used the same so-called health journals as a bait to publish the hoax study after paying a hefty fee.
After German newspaper Bild took the bait, "...soon we were in the Daily Star, the Irish Examiner, Cosmopolitan's German website, the Times of India, both the German and Indian site of the Huffington Post, and even television news in Texas and an Australian morning talk show," Bohannon writes.
In his advice, he concludes that one should never believe on a health claim, which gives easy answers as in reality they are just "sexy headlines," but bad science.