Chocaholics Rejoice!

Woo-ee! Eating chocolate may keep your heart healthy.chocolate

At least that’s the indication from a study just published in the journal Heart and described in the Los Angeles Times by Melissa Healy. She writes: “Devoted consumers of chocolate – including those who eat up to two candy bars a day – are 11 percent less likely than those who eat little to no chocolate to have heart attacks and strokes, researchers have found.” And, she adds, the study found that “chocolate eaters are also 25 percent less likely to die of cardiovascular disease,..”

The findings come from a British study that tracked over an average of 12 years nearly 21,000 adults living around Norfolk, England. Those in the top one-fifth ate about half an American-sized candy bar a day, while those in the bottom 20th percentile averaged just 1.1 grams day, Healy writes, adding, “those in the highest chocolate-consuming group also had lower average body-mass indexes, systolic blood pressure and diabetes rates.”

The researchers combined their findings with those of nine other studies involving 159,809 people “to provide further context for their findings.” That analysis showed that “heavy chocolate consumers were 25 percent less likely to suffer a wide range of cardiovascular ills and 45 percent less likely to die of those ills.”

The LA Times quotes Dr. Farzaneg Aghdassi Sorond of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, who says that “observation studies” such as this most recent one call out for deeper analysis to learn whether it is chocolate itself that makes people healthier or something about the lifestyle of those who eat it. His research has shown “that when elderly people at high risk of stroke and dementia were given high quantities of cocoa to consume, the blood flow to their brains improved.” He notes that the British study did not “distinguish between grades of chocolate – and thus the cocoa content.”

chocolate2Chocolate’s benefits have long been suspected – and not just as wishful thinking by chocolate lovers like me. A friend of mine, someone much more disciplined than I, eats one piece of dark chocolate every day. I have a favorite cookie containing chunks of dark chocolate, one of which finishes off my lunch each day, but the only thing keeping me from devouring the whole package in one sitting is knowledge of one single cookie’s caloric count. When an entire box of chocolate (preferably dark chocolate with nuts and caramel) enters our home, it calls out my name repeatedly until the box is empty.

chocolate3Someone else I know swore off chocolate years ago because, she says, it makes her face break out. And even though everyone tells her that has been disproved, she will not relent. “All I know,” she says, “is when I eat chocolate my face breaks out and when I don’t eat chocolate, it doesn’t.” Hard to argue with that evidence.

But as for me, wouldn’t I love to participate in a chocolate-eating trial. Eh, on second thought, with my luck I’d be put in the control group and have to abstain while that top one-fifth pigged out.