The Latest Good News about Chocolate

chocolateThis is an excellent time to report even more good news about chocolate since you're likely either to give or receive a box of the scrumptious stuff for Mother's Day.  We've discussed before the many benefits to your circulatory system from eating moderate amounts of dark chocolate regularly.  But the scientific studies are ongoing and, in at least one case, astonishing.  We'll begin with the study that says eating chocolate can help to keep you thin.  From there, we’ll bring you up to date on other interesting chocolate facts recently found in the news.


In March 2012, Boise State Public Radio reported on a study that claims the following: people who eat chocolate several times a week are actually leaner than those who don't eat chocolate regularly. (Please wait a moment while I consume my daily dose, one dark chocolate square.)  There is a caveat though: the weight benefits disappeared for those in the study who ate the most chocolate. 


The results of this study are even more astonishing when one realizes this implication: chocolate calories seem to be different from other calories, a radical idea contradicting the conventional wisdom that all calories are the same.  Why would calories from chocolate be different?  The researchers offer these explanations:


 1) "Certain foods contain compounds that have some power to positively influence metabolic factors." The polyphenols in chocolate strongly inhibit an enzyme responsible for digesting fat, so the fat may leave the body before it's absorbed.


2) "Another possible mechanism is that the compounds in chocolate may increase the energy that cells make." In other words, chocolate may increase metabolism and therefore cause more calories to be burned.  By the way, the article tells us, this study was NOT funded by the chocolate industry.   To read the entire article, click here.


If you're one of those people who eat too much chocolate or want to (and I think those two categories cover just about everybody), here's a study just for you.  It was reported in the March 2012 Consumer Reports on Health.  Exercise can help you control that chocolate craving.  The study found that chocolate lovers who took a brisk 15-minutte walk on a treadmill ate less chocolate afterward than those who didn't exercise (16 grams compared to 29 grams or 6 Hershey's kisses).  I presume that, if you don't have a treadmill, a sidewalk or hiking path would be an adequate substitute. 


The University of California, Berkeley Wellness Letter (February 2012) brought more good news about the circulatory benefits of devouring chocolate:


- Several large studies have once again confirmed that chocolate is good for the heart.  Seven studies involving more than 100,000 people showed that those who ate the most chocolate had a 37% lower risk of heart disease and were 29% less likely to have a stroke.  [The healthful effects come from the flavonoids in chocolate, which have antioxidant properties and decrease the permeability of blood vessels.]


- Harvard researchers concluded that consuming dark chocolate for 2-12 weeks modestly lowered cholesterol.


- Another review found that cocoa-rich products had a small blood-pressure-lowering effect upon people with hypertension and prehypertension. 


However, the article says, any possible benefits are negated if a person eats so much chocolate that it causes weight gain.


Here are more interesting chocolate facts from the Wellness Letter:


- The percentage of cocoa listed on the label is not a reliable indicator of flavonoid content.  "...70 percent cocoa from one manufacturer is not necessarily better than one that is 60 percent from another manufacturer.  In addition to processing, the type of cocoa beans used and the manufacturer's 'recipe' also play a significant role in determining flavonoid content." 


- Although chocolate is high in saturated fat (which comes from the cocoa butter), the fat is mostly stearic acid, which does not raise blood cholesterol.


- Milk chocolate is not as healthy as dark chocolate.  Its added fats are not good for the heart, and it has twice as much sugar as the darkest chocolate.


- The healthiest way to get your cocoa is from unsweetened cocoa powder. That will give you the most flavonoids. Next best is unsweetened baking chocolate.


- Contrary to popular opinion, chocolate does not contain a large amount of caffeine. There are about 20 milligrams in an ounce of dark chocolate and about 6 milligrams in milk chocolate. A cup of coffee contains about 100-150 milligrams.


For more information about the benefits of chocolate on this site, click on the links below:


Source(s): “Does A Chocolate Habit Help Keep You Lean?"


University of California, Berkeley Wellness Letter, February 2012.


Consumer Reports on Health, March 2012. “flavonoids"


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