September 2011

The Health Benefits of Chocolate

Recent studies indicate health benefits in chocolate.

Chocolate is one of the most highly enjoyed foods in America and Americans consume more than 3 billion pounds per year. Available in many forms such as candy, cookies, and milk products it is used in some form for nearly every holiday, Chocolate Easter bunnies, Halloween candy, and chocolate coins for Hanukah.

Chocolate lovers can take note of recent studies that seem to reinforce the health benefits of chocolate. But don’t reach for that candy bar just yet. Many of the recent studies indicate that certain types of chocolate provide more health benefits than others and researchers note moderation remains a key factor.

A recent study published in the American Journal of Physiology, was conducted by Dr Moh H Malek, an associate professor of healthcare sciences at Wayne University's Institute of Gerontology. His research indicated that epicatechin, a chemical found in cocoa, could contribute to decreasing the rate of muscle aging and when combined with exercise increase health. Don’t give up your gym membership just yet. The study was done on mice and concrete results wont be available until the research is tested on human subjects.

Another recent study indicated that chocolate consumption can reduce the risk for heart disease and diabetes. Oscar H. Franco, M.D., Ph.D., with the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, and other researchers analyzed the findings of seven research studies. They compared the heart and health of people who consumed low levels of chocolate ( less than two bars per week) with those who ate higher levels of chocolate ( more than two bars per week).

Finally, Dirk Taubert, MD, PhD, and colleagues at the University of Cologne, Germany published a report in the Aug. 27 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association. Their research indicated that the consumption of dark chocolate offered higher health benefits, particularly regarding lowering blood pressure, than milk chocolate or white chocolate.

In spite of recent studies researchers agree you shouldn’t go on a chocolate binge. Chocolate is still a high-calorie, high-fat food. Most of the studies done used no more than 100 grams, or about 3.5 ounces, of dark chocolate a day to get the benefits.

So go ahead. One more bite probably wont hurt (and may actually help).