Tuesday, 4 March 2008

eat up the chocolates

Good News for Chocoholics
A great deal of evidence has emerged linking the consumption of chocolate to
improved cardiovascular health, insulin sensitivity and energy levels. A new study
has linked a preference for chocolate over other treats to better overall health and
psychological well- being in old age.
The study involved an analysis of data collected via questionnaires from 1,367 male
subjects, from a variety of backgrounds, born between 1919 and 1934. Confectionary
preferences were determined, and those who reported no confectionary consumption
were excluded from the analysis. Men preferring chocolate had lower body mass index
and waist circumference, and they also reported more exercise and better subjective
health. Importantly, indicators of psychological well-being were consistently better
in those preferring chocolate. Chocolate consumers were found to be significantly
less likely to experience feelings of loneliness, and far more likely to feel happy
and make plans for the future. Chocolate consumers also scored higher on a measure
of depression.
The authors concluded that in “this socioeconomically homogenous male cohort,
chocolate preference in old age was associated with better health, optimism and
better psychological well-being”. This study is a fascinating addition to the
body of evidence indicating that chocolate consumption can be beneficial to health.
Click here to view the study abstract.
So what’s in chocolate?
Cocoa beans are a rich source of flavonoids. Flavonoids are chemicals found in
plants that act in the body as antioxidants (substances that neutralise damaging,
reactive toxins known as free radicals). The particular flavonoids of interest in
cocoa are called catechins and
epicatechins. Dark chocolate with a high cocoa content is densely packed with these
powerful substances. Indeed, it has a higher Oxygen Radical Absorption Capacity
(ORAC - a measure of a food's antioxidant power) than foods such as green tea,
blueberries and prunes. Dark chocolate also contains high levels of the vital
minerals magnesium, iron, potassium and chromium.
It is important to choose high quality dark chocolate (absolute minimum 50% cocoa).
It would appear that milk proteins have the capacity to bind to flavonoids; thus
milk chocolate will not provide the benefits to health associated with chocolate
Chocolate does contain a modest amount of caffeine – approximately 20mg in a 30g
bar – however, compared to coffee the amounts are very low (an average cup
contains about 115mg) and are not detrimental to health.
Chocolate is a high calorie, high fat food so keep portions moderate, but do not
feel guilty as you tuck in – the major fatty acid in cocoa butter is a saturated
fat called stearic acid, which is known to have no effect on serum cholesterol.
So when you want to eat something indulgent, reach for a healthy chunk of dark

No comments: