Daily Archives: October 26, 2011

Rx: Chocolate

This might be overdoing it.

In a song called “Born Under a Bad Sign”, blues singer Albert King wailed, “If it weren’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have no luck at all.”  Sometimes the news feels that way, too, doesn’t it?  It all seems to be bad.

That’s why I recently flung my hat into the air and yelled “hurrah!” when I heard some great news for a change:  Chocolate might be good for us!

Over the years, a number of studies have been conducted on its possible health benefits.  People in lab coats have presumably been administering hot fudge sundaes and milk shakes, taking notes all the while.  A group of British researchers has since analyzed the data from seven such studies that had a total of 114,009 participants.

Here’s what they found, as reported in BMJ, the online British Medical Journal…  “Highest levels of chocolate consumption were associated with a 37% reduction in cardiovascular disease and a 29% reduction in stroke compared with the lowest levels.”  If I’m reading that correctly, that means eating chocolate could help reduce the risk of heart disease or strokes.

Wow, I thought, maybe I should step up my chocolate intake to, oh, maybe one Snicker bar every four hours.  Or possibly I should have a piece of devil’s food cake once in a while instead of a salad.

Of course, just when the news seemed to be so good, spoilsport dietitians started responding to the study results with their usual warnings.  They pointed out that our favorite chocolate treats are also full of sugar and fat, which potentially increase the risk of heart disease.  Even one of the people who conducted the chocolate study used the dreaded M word — moderation.

Scientists think that the antioxidant properties found in cocoa may have something to do with maintaining heart health; there is also an anti-inflammatory effect, although they’re not absolutely certain why.   But here’s some more hopeful news, couched in the dry language of scientists.  This is the conclusion that the study’s authors reached:

“Based on observational evidence, levels of chocolate consumption seem to be associated with a substantial reduction in the risk of cardiometabolic disorders.  Further experimental studies are required to confirm a potentially beneficial effect of chocolate consumption.”

Did you catch the good part?  “Further experimental studies are required”.  OK, I’m volunteering right now to be a chocolate guinea pig in the next study.  My only stipulation is that I don’t want to be part of the group that gets the placebo chocolate — I want the real thing.

I’m willing to advance the cause of science by submitting to profiteroles, to mint chocolate chip ice cream, to Girl Scout cookies, to chocolate mousse.  If need be, I’ll even report to the Ben & Jerry’s factory in Vermont.  This is important work, people — who’s with me?