Take One Chocolate and Call Me in the Morning

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The Good News!

Okay…I’m likely overstating something that I imagine you’ve read about in one of a hundred media sources in the last few days, but if you missed it, here’s the news:  chocolate is good for you!  In a new study just published in the British Journal of Medicine, Dr. Oscar Franco announced that regular consumption of chocolate can cut the risk of heart disease and stroke by about 30%.

But moderation is the key!  Cookies, candy and cakes are loaded with sugar, calories and fat. Eating too much and result in weight gain and…you guessed it—heart disease.  So for now, stick to the dark, solid chocolate with a percentage of cocoa solids of 70% or more.  Doctors orders!

The Details

Several previous studies have suggested that limited amounts of dark chocolate can contribute to reductions in blood pressure and diabetes which are risk factors for heart disease, but these studies were on a small-scale.  Franco collaborated with several colleagues and combined the results of seven studies consisting of over 10,000 people who studied the relationship between chocolate and heart disease and stroke.

The World Health Organization predicts that by 2030, nearly 23.6 million people will die from heart disease.

Give Me the Chocolate and No One Gets Hurt

Results showed that people who ate the most chocolate had a 37% lower risk of heart disease and a 29% lower risk of stroke compared with people who ate the least amount of chocolate.  While the studies showed how much chocolate people ate, the research didn’t distinguish between dark or milk chocolate. And any source of chocolate counted, whether chocolate bars, chocolate drinks, or chocolate cookies, for example.  The good news…these people regularly ate chocolate in the name of research for eight to 16 years.

The components in chocolate that might explain its protective effects were not explored. However, based on previous research, the researchers credit polyphenols–antioxidants that increase the body’s production of the chemical nitric oxide.  An increase in nitric oxide production in turn might lead to improvements in blood pressure and blood flow though arteries.

The past president of the American Heart Association was quoted as saying, “If we knew what components [exerted the healthy effects], we would package them in a pill.”  Well, we can dream, can’t we?

Good News, Bad News

So, this comprehensive study doesn’t prove that chocolate lowers the incidence of heart disease, but it does suggest that chocolate can be a major component in better heart and brain health.  Great news—just don’t  go overboard.  Remember, everything is better in moderation!

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