Is chocolate good for you?By Veita Bland, M.D. / February 16, 2023
Chocolate is celebrated with most holidays. Especially with Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter and the grandaddy of all chocolate holidays, Valentine’s Day. It’s a day drenched in chocolate and love. A treat for the senses, a symbol of love and a time-honored pick me up. Chocolate is so enjoyed by so many but if we are talking about it here, we must ask the question, “Is chocolate good for you?” It must be, I hope.
Consumer Reports recently urged several confectionery manufacturers of dark chocolate to decrease their levels of heavy metals in their products. Some manufacturers’ methods of production have resulted in elevated levels of lead and cadmium. These heavy metals are associated with nervous system disorders, immune system suppression and kidney damage. Risk of developing these health issues is greater for pregnant women and during the growth and development of young children.
So, this dark chocolate with its heavy metal content is not good for you but what about chocolate without the heavy metal content?
Scientists have been studying chocolate in a research study called COSMOS, the Cocoa Supplement and Multivitamin Outcomes Study. In this study, researchers looked at the active ingredient in chocolate, flavanols (found in cocoa), to see if it was beneficial to the health of people. The study ran 3.6 years, and the participants were given the flavonoid extract as a supplement.
The researchers found a 27 percent decrease in cardiovascular disease in older people taking the flavonoid extract supplement. When the researchers examined the research subjects’ cognitive function, the cocoa extract had no effect on cognition, but the multivitamin did show significant benefits.
The extract used in this study was not the typical chocolate bar we buy from stores. It was concentrated with cocoa or flavanols which are believed to hold the health benefits of chocolate.
In one study, the participants were given 670 mg of flavanols which is the equivalent to 12 bars of dark chocolate or 50 bars of milk chocolate per day. Now, the concentration of flavanol depends on the origin of the raw cocoa used. The processing of the chocolate may also reduce the flavanols present in the final product.
The scientific research though does not hold up and the 500-year-old myth of chocolate being good for the health is just that, a myth. So, let us now see the light. No more telling ourselves that a little piece of dark chocolate, even with its sugar content, is good for the heart or the brain. Chocolate is just a treat for the taste buds, an enemy of the waistline and lover of the lips. Another myth bites the dust.
Dr. Veita Bland is a board-certified Greensboro physician and hypertension specialist. Dr. Bland’s radio show, “It’s a Matter of Your Health,” can be heard live on Wednesdays, 5:30 p.m. on N.C. A&T State University’s WNAA, 90.1 FM. Listeners may call in and ask questions. The show is replayed on Sirius 142 at 5 p.m. on Wed. Email Dr. Bland at firstname.lastname@example.org.