Stop! New Research Showing Benefits of Chocolate Is NOT a Free Pass to Binge


"Largest Study to Date Links Chocolate to Lower Blood Pressure and Cardiovascular Risk" shout the headlines today.

You and I know that if you have an eating disorder this good news can be dangerous to your health....unless you think clearly about what is being said.

If this hypothesis causes candy sales to jump we will see how rationalizations, fantasies and wishful thinking influence our economy and harm personal health.  This might be a good time to find out if your chocolate cravings are really sugar or fat cravings in disguise.  Let's look.

The word chocolate brings up images of candy bars, ice cream cones, steaming cups of hot chocolate topped with marshmallows or whipped cream, Easter eggs and fudge brownies.  Combine those images with the cravings and distorted thinking of a person with an eating disorder as we have a recipe for disaster.

I went through the medscape literature, not the screaming headlines, thinking about you. This perspective may help you sort out the chocolate findings and prevent you from diving into what you might rationalize as a "permission based binge."

April 1, 2010 (Nuthetal, Germany) — The largest observational study so far to examine the association between chocolate consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease has found that those who ate the most chocolate--around 7.5 g per day--had a 39% lower risk of MI and stroke than individuals who ate almost no chocolate (1.7 g per day).

My perspective: The study does NOT say sugar or fat.  The study refers to chocolate. The lead author Dr. Brian Buijsse (German Institute of Human Nutrition, Nuthetal, Germany) cautions that small amounts of chocolate related to benefits and that he can't suggest that people eat chocolate because he doesn't know the necessary amounts required to achieve positive results yet.

If you have an eating disorder you are in danger of interpreting his words as more freedom to eat as much chocolate as you want.  You might even think that the more chocolate you eat the better.  You can justify a chocolate  binge since amounts are open ended.

Dr. Buijsse goes on to say that he is reluctant to make recommendations "because chocolate contains so many calories and sugar, and obesity is already an epidemic. We have to be careful."

My perspective:  With all respect to this highly qualified and experienced biomed researcher, chocolate doesn't have that many calories.  Fat and sugar are the carries of the calories.  One tablespoon of Ghirardelli natural unsweetened cocoa contains 15 calories, 10 of which come from fat and is 6 grams.

Dr. Buijsse continues, "... if people did want to treat themselves, they would be better off choosing small amounts of chocolate, preferably dark chocolate, over other sweet snacks. ...We know it is the cocoa content in chocolate that is important, so the higher the cocoa content, the better."

With this statement the good doctor get to the point I'm making.  Visions of dark chocolate candy, cookies, cakes, pies, creams and beautifully wrapped delicacies need to disintegrate.  The benefits do not come from sugar or fat.  The benefits come from cocoa, the darker the better.

Dr. Buijsse states, " "Our hypothesis was that because chocolate appears to have a pronounced effect on blood pressure, chocolate consumption would lower the risk of strokes and heart attacks, with a stronger effect being seen for stroke.”

The study concludes that if people eating little or no chocolate increased their intake by 6 grams a day, " 85 fewer heart attacks and strokes per 10 000 people could be expected to occur over a period of about 10 years. It's the flavanols in chocolate that seem to be responsible for the beneficial effects, causing the release of nitric oxide, which contributes to lower BP and improves platelet function.

My perspective that I hope will become yours is that flavanols in cocoa - not sugar, not fat, not candy, cookies, cakes and creams - are helpful. And only tiny amounts are necessary to achieve possible benefits.

These findings are no reason to binge. These findings are no reason to keep chocolate treats close at hand.  These findings are no reason to buy chocolate candies.

If you want to add 6 grams (and 6 grams only) of chocolate to your eating plan, find a way to do it without adding sugar or fat. Turn plain unsweetened cocoa into a condiment and let your wisdom and health needs prevail.



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