Health and Chocolate

Sure, chocolate tastes good—but is it good for you?

Some studies support that chocolate can be included as part of a heart-healthy diet. Courtesy of Mars.

Chocolate has been an enjoyable part of people’s diets and has been used as medicine by various cultures throughout the ages. In recent years, scientific evidence has begun to indicate that the nutrients, phytonutrients and fatty acids found naturally in cocoa may be associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. These effects have been attributed to flavanols, which are natural compounds that occur in a wide range of fruits and vegetables and have been extensively studied in cocoa.

Over the past decade, studies examining the eating patterns of adults and their overall health over the course of several years suggest that those who regularly included cocoa products and chocolate in their diets maintained better cardiovascular health.  

Over the past five years, in various studies that examined the cocoa and chocolate eating habits of over 90,000 adults of mixed ages, ethnicities and genders over the course of multiple years, individuals who reported eating chocolate on some regular basis were less likely to develop a range of cardiovascular problems.  Findings included a reduction in overall mortality and blood pressure. For more on these studies, see Taking Chocolate to Heart: For Pleasure and Health from the National Confectioners Association.

Though these studies cannot prove that eating chocolate caused these benefits, these large population studies do support that chocolate can be included as part of a heart-healthy diet.

Furthermore, even the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) Report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which is considered the premier governmental source on nutritional guidance, identified moderate evidence to support that modest consumption of dark chocolate or cocoa, as part of a balanced diet, is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. 

Studies also show that chocolate and cocoa may contribute to the prevention of Alzheimer's disease. A video based on a recent publication by Dr. Giulio Maria Pasinetti in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Diseases explains the dietary aspects of chocolate and cocoa that could contribute to prevention of Alzheimer’s disease.

Studies also indicate that chocolate and other cocoa products may help contribute to feelings of wellbeing. Of course, the tie between chocolate and happiness was obvious already, wasn’t it?

While this news is good, it isn’t license to power through that box of chocolates. The best approach is to manage calories and balance the cocoa products in an overall diet.

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Did You Know?
U.S. chocolate manufacturers use about 3.5 million pounds of whole milk every day to make milk chocolate.
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