Volume 4, Issue 48
December 1, 2011

Wanna be healthy? Eat more chocolate

One of my favorite Woody Allen movies is Sleeper. It’s a classic sci-fi movie where a health store owner dies and his family freezes his body in suspended animation. Fifty years later, when they find a cure for his condition, they defrost him, and bring him back to life. Amazingly, this 1973 movie has something tasty to say about your health. How is that possible?

The first thing that the store owner discovers after waking up is that while he was asleep, medical researchers had made an important discovery.  Instead of chocolate cake being bad for you, as health nut Woody had always thought, they found out that it is the healthiest food you can eat.

And just this last month, a group of British researchers said that it is now time to wake Woody up. They reported in the British Medical Journal that the more chocolate you eat, the healthier you are likely to be.

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Almost contradicting themselves, the authors of the study had this to say about their findings, “Although overconsumption can have harmful effects, the existing studies generally agree on a potential beneficial association of chocolate consumption with a lower risk of cardiometabolic disorders. Our findings confirm this, and we found that higher levels of chocolate consumption might be associated with a one-third reduction in the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.” Here are the interesting details.

* The study was a meta-analysis of seven already published studies.
* None of these studies differentiated between dark, milk, or white chocolate.
* They counted any form of chocolate. This included chocolate bars, chocolate drinks, and chocolate snacks, desserts, nutritional supplements, and, of course, chocolate cake.
* The amount of chocolate the participants ate ranged between none to more than once a day.

In five of the seven studies, there was a significantly steady finding. The more chocolate a person ate, the less likely he was to develop coronary heart disease, strokes, and even diabetes. Overall, when they pooled all of the data from all of the studies, those who ate the most chocolate were 37% less likely to have any cardiovascular disease and 29% less likely to have a stroke than those who ate the least.

Why is chocolate so good for you? The authors reasoned that it is due to certain plant nutrients found in high amounts in chocolate called polyphenols. Polyphenols increase the body’s production of nitric oxide. And nitric oxide improves circulation in the small blood vessels and capillaries, prevents platelets from sticking together and forming dangerous clots, stops LDL cholesterol form oxidizing, lowers blood pressure, decreases insulin resistance, and decreases blood fats.

I do think you can eat too much chocolate. No, an abundance of cocoa won’t hurt you, but overindulging in sugar sure can. But I do think you can eat chocolate moderately without guilt. While this study suggested any type of chocolate can help, the best is dark chocolate. The darker the chocolate, the greater the amount of polyphenols. I also suggest you eat only organic chocolate, as the contaminates in regular chocolate can cause other health problems. You can find quite a few different types of organic dark chocolate online and in many health food stores. Woody would be proud!

Finding your Real Cures,

Frank Shallenberger, MD

REF: Buitrago-Lopez A, Sanderson J, Johnson L, et al. Chocolate consumption and cardiometabolic disorders: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ August 29, 2011 2011.

Copyright 2011 Soundview Publishing, LLC.

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