Although I’ve been on the “chocolate as health food” bandwagon for ages now, I’m glad to see sources like the Journal of Nutrition coming out with verifiable research to back up my wishful thinking. I am, however, disappointed the research didn’t call for larger portions of this necessary and life-sustaining health food. As with most things in life, there’s a “tipping point” where the risks start outweighing the benefits. In this case, the point of healthy consumption is a mere 6 or 7 grams a day. Darn it, that’s only a half a bar per week.
But hey, I’m not complaining. I’ll take 6 grams of dark chocolate over a teaspoon of cod liver oil any day.
The findings, published last month by an Italian university research team, resulted from the largest epidemiological study on chocolate ever conducted in Europe. Leave it to the Italians to figure out that a few grams of high-grade dark chocolate paired with a nice glass of Chianti qualifies as health food. You do know that red wine is good for you, right? (The result of more Italian research and worthy of a separate post. Check back later.)
Thousands of people enrolled in the research project, which focused on several complex mechanisms of inflammation and how they factor into major diseases. This is one study I wouldn’t hesitate to take part in. Testing chocolate as medicine? Yes, count me in.
Lead author of the study, Romina di Giuseppe explains, “We started from the hypothesis that high amounts of antioxidants contained in the cocoa seeds, in particular flavonoids and other kinds of polyphenols, might have beneficial effects on the inflammatory state. Our results have been absolutely encouraging: people having moderate amounts of dark chocolate regularly have significantly lower levels of C-reactive protein in their blood. In other words, their inflammatory state is considerably reduced. The 17% average reduction observed may appear quite small, bit it is enough to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease for 1/3rd in women and 1/4th in men. It is undoubtedly a remarkable outcome.”
Hats off to my favorite Italian researcher and new best friend, Romina.
This study was done with high-quality, 72% or greater cocoa content chocolate bars. Hostess Ding Dongs don’t count. Neither do Mars Bars. Vosges Chocolates (one of my favorites) do, but I’m not sure about Mo’s Bacon Bar (see below). Bacon? Are you serious? Who came up with the idea of mixing bacon with chocolate? That’s a guy thing, it has to be.
Girls prefer the Vosges cardamom, organic walnuts, dried plums, and Venezuelan dark chocolate. Or the dark chocolate and pasilla chillies. Or the chocolate and plantains. Or Ceylon cinnamon, Mexican ancho chili, and dark chocolate. Just thought I’d throw that out in case anyone wants to help me with my preventive health care needs.
One of my local favorites is Chocolove Chocolate, made with love, hugs, and kisses in nearby Boulder, CO.
So there you have it, a chunk of dark chocolate every day may reduce your risk of heart disease and elevate your mood in the process.
Go forth and eat dark chocolate — and savor every 6.4 gram bite.