I have heard that chocolate is good for you. Is this true?
Dr Ockene answers:
Chocolate is rich in plant polyphenols, and especially in a subclass of polyphenols called flavonoids. These substances are also found in other foods such as bran, apples, pears, red wine, grapefruit, and strawberries, but in Western countries cocoa products contribute a large proportion of polyphenol intake. These substances have been reported to improve vascular function, dilate blood vessels, and reduce the likelihood of clots forming where we really don't want them, such as in the arteries of the heart and brain. The beneficial effects are seen only with dark chocolate, which has a lot of polyphenols, and not in white chocolate.
But it is very important to understand that chocolate also has a lot of calories. If you consume hundreds of calories of chocolate every day the beneficial effect will be more than offset by all of the problems related to overweight, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.
But at least one good study suggests that it only takes a small amount of chocolate to see a beneficial effect. In a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2007 Taubert and colleagues studied 44 adults with high blood pressure. These folks were randomly assigned to receive either 6.3 g per day of dark chocolate or polyphenol-free white chocolate each day for 18 weeks. This is a small amount of chocolate - 1/5 of an ounce and containing only 30 calories. Yet they saw a beneficial effect with a decrease in blood pressure and improvement in certain blood factors. No beneficial effect was seen from white chocolate. If you would like to see the actual article, click here.
So the good news is that small amounts of chocolate may be beneficial but you need to remember that larger amounts of chocolate, unless you exercise enough to burn off those extra calories, will make it hard for you to keep your weight under control.
So the real question is - can you stop at one bite of chocolate!?