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Reports of chocolate's benefits for our health are appearing fast and furiously in the press. We would like to share some of these findings with you. Some people worry that something that tastes as good as high quality chocolate must be bad by definition. Well, you can throw that fear right out the proverbial window. Let's look at what medical and nutritional researchers are telling us about chocolate's benefits.

". . . it seemed pertinent to investigate the antioxidative capabilities of commercial chocolate products. … a cup of hot chocolate containing 7.3g (two tablespoons) of cocoa would have 146 mg total phenol, whereas a 41 g (1.5 oz) piece of milk chocolate would have 205 mg total phenol. For comparison, a standard 140 ml (5 oz.) serving of red wine contains about 210 mg total phenol. … chocolate can contribute a significant portion of dietary antioxidants, and the pleasure of pairing red wine and dark chocolate could have synergistic advantages beyond their complementary tastes." Andrew L. Waterhouse, Joseph R. Shirley, Jennifer L. Donovan, The Lancet, Vol. 348, No. 9030, 21 Sept 1996, P. 834.

"Chocolate may be a vital ingredient in fighting heart disease and the darker the better, researchers in America claim. In a study that will bring pleasure to cocoa addicts, confectioners and dentists, the winning recipe for good health would be to combine chocolate intake with red wine. Dr. Andrew Waterhouse and researchers from California University found that chocolate contains significant levels of phenol, which prevents oxidation of a specific type of combined fat and protein complex in the blood. Oxidation of these low density lipoproteins is known to be linked to furring of the arteries which can lead to heart attacks. A 41-gram piece of milk chocolate was found to contain 205 mg of phenol, compared with 210 mg in a glass of red wine. Two tablespoons of cocoa had 146 mg of phenol. Dark chocolate had more phenol than milk chocolate, the researchers, writing in The Lancet, said." The Times (London), 20 Sept 1996

"The results of Waterhouse and colleagues, supported by our data, suggest that dietary intake of cocoa rich in antioxidant flavonoids may reduce the risk of atherosclerosis, and morbidity and mortality from coronary heart disease. The caffeine content of cocoa is 0.009% by weight, compared with coffee (0.04%), black tea (0.06%, and green tea (0.01%)." K. Kondo, R. Hirano, A. Matsumoto, O. Igarashi, H. Itakura, The Lancet, Vol. 348, No. 9040, 30 Nov 1996, p. 1514.

"Chocolate doesn't just tingle the tongue: it makes people feel good in some fundamental, undefinable way. No surprise, then, at a report in the current Nature. Chemicals found in chocolate, it seems, go after the same brain receptor system targeted by marijuana. …Unlike THC, the active ingredient in pot, chocolate's chemicals turn on only a few circumscribed regions of the brain. …But chocolate craving is evidently a real, physiological phenomenon. It's too early to tell precisely how the process works…" Michael D. Lemonick, Time, Sept 2, 1996, p. 58.

"Chocolate could be good for you, especially if you sniff it. Its smell has been shown to boost the immune system …Scientists at the University of Westminster made the discovery while studying how pleasurable experiences affect the immune system." Sun-Times, Aug 11, 1998.

"Here's more good news about chocolate: chocolate neither causes nor aggravates acne … chocolate isn't so bad for your teeth. Because it melts quickly, it's less likely to cause cavities than you might fear. Better yet, several substances in cocoa actually inhibit cavity promoting bacterial growth. The fat (stearic acid) in chocolate doesn't raise blood cholesterol levels. … chocolate does seem to smooth the edges of a hectic day or stressful week. …So, just what causes chocolate's cheering effect? One current theory suggests that eating chocolate may help increase the amount of serotonin, a brain chemical that helps brighten your mood. " Paula Dranov, "Chocolate! Confessions of a Chocolate Freak", 1998, pp. 12-13.

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