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Monday, July 30, 2007

Chocolate, the Hipcat Health Food


Now this is a health trend we can all jump on.

Researchers in Switzerland, go figure, have discovered that eating dark chocolate (74% cocoa, Nestlé Noir Intense) significantly improved arterial function for up to 8 hours. A group of male smokers, known for having a high risk factor of artery dysfunction, were given 40g of dark chocolate. That is an amount equal to about 1 bar of chocolate. Their artery function was tested and showed a statistically significant improvement for up to 8 hours after eating the chocolate.

So should you go out and stock up on chocolate bars, you know, for health purposes?

I hope this study doesn't get too much attention because whatever small benefit could be derived from eating chocolate is certainly offset by the amount of saturated fat and sugar in a candy bar. Well, it looks like it's too late for that. I've seen an article on several high profile sites mentioning it.

This is a perfect example of why people are so confused about what they should be eating to be healthy. Headline-ready studies come out every day with information that people take and run with until it spreads far and wide. Geez, ya think Nestle had anything to do with funding this study. Of course not. Now every Tom, Dick, and Harry can tell you that he's eating a chocolate bar a day to improve his endothelial artery function. What does that mean, you ask? Who gives a crap, it sounds good and I get to eat a chocolate bar every day! Woo Hoo!

If that is your plan, at least maximize the benefits and minimize the downside of eating chocolate by choosing a bar high in cocoa content and only have one occasionally as a treat. Dark chocolate bars tend to have fewer calories, less saturated fat, and a lower sugar content. Due to their lower cocoa content, milk chocolate, baking chocolate, and white chocolate were not shown to have the same health benefits.

Take home message:

If you are really looking for healthier food choices, there are much better options than chocolate. Continue to eat it as an occasional treat, but don't eat more now that it has been shown to have a few small health benefits.

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