Chocolate is Good for You, Decreases Diabetes Risk, Say Scientists

British scientists have just delivered the best healthy food news for a long time.  Chocolate is good for you!

Chocolate, everyone’s favorite treat but previously considered unhealthy, has been rehabilitated in recent years.  Rich in iron and other minerals and in antioxidants this food is a health food we would all happily eat every day.  Now five studies suggest that chocoholics stand a third less risk of developing diabetes thanks to their favorite snack.

Seven previously published studies using data from 114,000 people were re-examined by scientists at Cambridge University in the UK and the results published in the British Medical Journal.  Five of the studies linked regular eating of chocolate with reduced risk of strokes, heart attacks, and diabetes when compared to people who ate less chocolate or indulged only rarely.

Chocolate has been part of the human diet for at least 3,000 years since its discovery by the Aztec people of ancient Mexico, who made a bitter drink from the fermented seeds of the cacao tree and used it in religious rites.  After the Conquistadors invaded Mexico in the 16th century, the beans were brought to Europe and the drink quickly gained popularity.  However, it was not until 1847 English chocolate producer, Joseph Fry, devised the solid sweet treat we know today by adding cocoa butter and sugar to the cocoa.

Chocolate is known to cheer people up – women famously eat it after a romantic relationship ends.  This is because it contains substances like phenylethylamine, tryptophan and phenylalanine, which cause the release of anti-depressant and pleasure chemicals in the brain.

The chocolate you should eat for better health is good quality dark chocolate containing at least 60% cocoa solids, rather than cheap chocolate loaded with sugar or white chocolate, which has no cocoa solids at all.  In addition, the researchers agreed that overindulgence can do you more harm than good.  Eaten in excessive quantities chocolate, like any candy, will lead to obesity.

The studies took into account factors like age, diet, lifestyle, weight, and smoking, and found the effect of the chocolate consumption remained the same: a 31% reduced risk of diabetes.  They also found a 37% reduced risk for heart disease and a 29% reduction for strokes.

“Although over-consumption can have harmful effects, the existing studies generally agree on a potential beneficial association of chocolate consumption with a lower risk of cardiometabolic disorders,” said Cambridge University’s Dr Adriana Buitrago-Lopez.

Dr David Katz, director of medical studies in public health at Yale University in the US, said the study does not actually prove that chocolate was itself the cause of reduced health risk for the 114,000 people involved.

“What if happier people eat more chocolate, and are at lower cardiometabolic risk because they are happier? This paper cannot address such subtleties,” he explained.  Nevertheless, he agreed that the study does suggest moderate eating of chocolate is good for us, though it is too early to suggest what the optimum “dose” of chocolate would be to increase health.

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