Enduring Questions: Is Chocolate Good For You?

Chocoholics rejoice - there's increasing evidence that a little of the brown stuff does more good than harm (non-subs preview)

Posted: 15 May 2007
by Amby Burfoot

2006 was a great one for chocolate fans. In January, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (of Washington DC in the US) published the most convincing study yet linking flavonol-rich cocoa to improved blood-vessel health. A month later, the Archives of Internal Medicine reported that Dutch men who ate the most chocolate had a 47 per cent lower mortality rate over 15 years than a similar group that consumed little chocolate.

In June, the Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology published a special supplement on cocoa flavonols, with 17 articles about chocolate’s health benefits, ranging from lower blood pressure to increased brain blood flow and better skin health (honest!).

In November, independent researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore in the US announced a study that showed a small amount of chocolate slowed platelet clumping. Platelets are important blood cells that promote the formation of blood clots – useful when it comes to limiting blood loss from a wound, but not so good when they form blood clots inside the circulatory system, as this can cause damage to blood vessels or, in the worst cases, trigger a heart attack or stroke. So, if chocolate does indeed slow the clumping of platelets, it could be very beneficial to health.

It’s enough to make you look for Willy Wonka’s nearest factory. There’s only one problem: much of this research has been sponsored by Mars, the company that makes M&Ms and Snickers.

Sweet Science
Mary Engler is an exception. A cardiovascular physiologist at the University of California in San Francisco, Engler, along with her twin sister and fellow PhD Marguerite, has spent the last 15 years researching the connection between diet and blood vessel health. In 2004, the Englers published the first independent study, in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, to show that dark chocolate allows the arteries to expand and carry more blood.

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Enduring Questions: Is Chocolate Good For You?

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Discuss this article

I read something (in the guardian i think) by this guy who always has a bit of dark chocolate about 10-20mins before running because it gives him a real good, long lasting endorphin high while he's running. i've been trying it and can't say i've got any conclusive evidence but i really dont mind carrying on trying. damn good excuse for buying good dark chocolate and eating it. anyone else heard of this or got any similiar experience / views?
Posted: 16/05/2007 at 11:52

Doesnt s@x also produce such a high?
Posted: 16/05/2007 at 11:54

I imagine chocolate is less exhausting.
Posted: 16/05/2007 at 11:56

Before, during or after a run did you mean?
Posted: 16/05/2007 at 11:57

I'll do an experiment if I can find a willing partner.
Posted: 16/05/2007 at 11:58

It contains sugar, and sugar stimulates endorphin production (in babies at least) so he would be better off eating the cheapest, nastiest milk chocolate he can find rather than using dark chocolate.
Posted: 16/05/2007 at 11:59

No i know it has no endorphins in it and that your body generates them when you exercise (or have s@x) but his theory was that partaking of dark chocolate (more caffeine than milk chocolate possibly) before running increased the endorphin high while running.
Posted: 16/05/2007 at 12:00

I vote for s3x and chocolate - but not the cheapest and nastiest :-D
Posted: 16/05/2007 at 12:11

Of either.......
Posted: 16/05/2007 at 12:50

I believe that chocolate causes the same endorphins to be released as sex does.

I would always go for the best possible quality.

In both :-)
Posted: 16/05/2007 at 12:58

So a bit of both before a run should in theory help keep the spirits up? or result in a major endorphin crash half way through perhaps.
Posted: 16/05/2007 at 13:01

something about Cerotonin (sp???) being released...the 'happy hormone'......I dunno waht I am on about and no doubt someone will tell me otherwise!
Posted: 16/05/2007 at 13:09

Seratonin - yes i think that's got something to do with it aswell. mangoes and brazil nuts apparently increase seratonin creation / reception. SO - a quick shag plus some chocolate coated brazil nuts and dried mango should pretty much ensure a resounding earth-shattering, ground-breaking high. and perhaps a PB if you're not too distracted to run.
Posted: 16/05/2007 at 14:15

Soooooo that's why I like chocolate brazils so much!

Posted: 16/05/2007 at 14:49

Serotonin (sorry, psych-geek). Given a reasonably varied diet you shouldn't be short of stuff for neurotransmitters anyway.

I'd expect the sugar, & maybe caffeine if it's really dark & you eat quite a bit, to give you a bit of a 'buzz'. & I'm sure there's a bit of a psychological benefit - linking getting out the door with choc might make you more likely to run more...
Posted: 17/05/2007 at 12:10

I use KENDAL MINT CAKE. Its virtually pure sugar. I have a square on the start line, and then every 20 mins to keep the blood sugars high. Works for me


Posted: 16/05/2008 at 18:19

Well I went to a chocolate tasting evening last night.  Not sure its done a great deal of good for the running, or the waistline or the taste buds with the tasting of the chili chocolate, but can confirm one thing, it was fun trying
Posted: 16/05/2008 at 21:38

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