The not so sweet truth about chocolate

Studies citing the health benefits of chocolate are reported regularly in the media. Read between the lines and the truth is often bittersweet. There’s nothing wrong with eating chocolate but it’s not a ‘cure’ and we can have too much of a good thing…

A reported 6.6% fall in the sales of chocolate indicates some of us are waking up to sensible moderation.

Square up to the facts

Whether it is advertising or scientific studies, claims that appear too good to be true are almost always are just that. For example: chocolate is good for us because it contains flavonols which have antioxidant properties. Well, not exactly: the flavonols are in the cocoa and only dark chocolate delivers up their benefits. The milk in ‘milk chocolate’ prevents us absorbing the flavenoids and white chocolate contains no cocoa and therefore no flavonols. Conversely, all chocolate contains sugar, calories and fat.

The BBC (among others) reported on a study claiming that chocolate may lower our blood pressure. The jury is still out on chocolate research in general as no one has yet published a definitive, long-term, controlled study. So, enjoy a square or two from time to time by all means, but the well-proven ways to help lower blood pressure currently include cutting salt intake, regular exercise and healthy weight control.

Less is more

The less chocolate is processed, the more natural goodness its cocoa content retains, so choose dark – the higher percentage cocoa solids the better – and organic. This will have much less added sugar and much higher caffeine content than milk chocolate.

Relish chocolate as a treat and enjoy its feel-good effects, but don’t rely on it as a preventative medicine.

Written by Dr. Noel Duncan