Two Chocolate bars a day may cut strokes' the Daily Mirror headlines screams. Guardian website: 'More evidence that chocolate may be good for the heart'.
Oh but wait...its not just dark chocolate the researchers say...it also includes milk chocolate. The sheer delight if you had been depriving yourself of this yummy velvety indulgence, thinking you were being 'good'. Happily you go skipping off to the shops blessing the scientists who came up with this 'evidence'.
When research like this is splashed all over the newspapers, the first question to ask yourself is, who paid for it? Nestle and Cadbury's kinda spring to mind!
The downside to headlines like this is that people believe it. If its in the news, it must be true right?
The benefits of 'dark' chocolate are well documented. Dr Mercola (www.drmercola.com) mentions that chocolate contains a high number of flavanoids known to have a number of health benefits including being an anti-carcinogenic, anti- inflammatory, helping reduce C-Reactive Protein (a known inflammatory marker in heart disease) plus helping improve gut flora. Evidence also points to chocolate being associated with a lowered risk of cardiovascular events.
So where does milk chocolate fit in? If we are talking about a bog standard chocolate bar, loaded with sugar and milk (because let's face it, naked chocolate is seriously bitter!), how can that possibly be?
Mars, Snickers, Twix and Kit Kat can hardly be called chocolate as they hardly contain any! The first ingredient in these bars is usually sugar, with the rest being made up of various substances including wheat flour and vegetable oil. Excuse me, but how on earth can that contribute to keeping your heart healthy? On the flip side, dark chocolate, with a cocoa content of 70% and above, will have a lot less sugar making it much more bitter. Taste buds used to sugary, salty foods will dislike bitter chocolate.
The observational study was conducted on 150,000 people with 21,000 from Norfolk being the subject of this study. What they fail to mention is their age range, lifestyle, general health or fitness levels. If you are smart, (you are reading this so that counts), you will have noticed the word 'observational'. One would guess that means the results were based on what the researchers 'saw' or perhaps via conversation with the study individuals. As far as one can tell, no actual tests were performed like blood or saliva tests for example. Furthermore, because we have no idea about eating habits, how do we know if these guys weren't already healthy? Some may have had dodgy hearts and decided to embark on a healthy lifestyle which would improve their health anyway, others could have been super fit raw foodists...who knows?
If you are a chocolate lover, feel free to have the odd indulgence. Chocolate is a pleasurable food, but where possible opt for dark chocolate. As Dr Beatrice Golomb (http://www.golombresearchgroup.org/overview) says, stick to high quality chocolate and determine your optimal 'dose'. In a nut shell, consume smaller amounts frequently in order to get the maximum benefits and nutrients into the bloodstream.