London: Parents, please note – contrary to nutritional wisdom, a new study says that eating sweets and chocolates are good for children as it may actually stop them from getting fat in later life.

Researchers have found that youngsters who regularly eat chocolate bars and other sugary treats are significantly less likely to be overweight or obese than those who do not, an agency reported.

The effect apparently extends to adolescence, when those who eat sweets are even more likely to be thinner, say the researchers at Louisiana State University.

For their study, the researchers monitored more than 11,000 children and young people between the ages of two and 18 from 1999 to 2004. The data showed kids who ate sweets were 22 per cent less likely to be obese than those who didn't.

Among adolescents, even more -- 26 per cent – were likely to weigh less than their counterparts who did not eat sweets, revealed the findings published in 'Food and Nutrition Research' journal.

Across all ages there were also lower levels of C-reactive protein in sweet-eating children. High levels of the protein are thought to raise the risk of heart problems and other chronic illnesses.

The researchers said that children who were fed the right portions of sweets from an early age learned the vital skill of "food discipline".

They also said those who ate treats just on special occasions were more aware of their eating habits and able to "successfully navigate the calories in, calories out balance".

Lead researcher Dr Carol O'Neil said: "The study illustrates that children and adolescents who consume candy are less likely to be overweight or obese. However, the results should not be construed as a hall-pass to overindulge. "Candy should not replace nutrient foods in the diet."