Who doesn’t love chocolate? The creamy, gooey, melt-in-your-mouth sweetness is something that the vast majority of people will agree is a divine treat. We’ve all joked that chocolate is good for our health. We can only dream that this delicious concoction could somehow miraculously evolve into something that doctors would encourage us to eat.
We’ve heard for a while now that there may be a link between dark chocolate and heart health. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, along with the Mars company, makers of delightful chocolate snacks such as Snickers, Twix, and the Mars bar, have backed a new study of “chocolate” pills. The active ingredient in these chocolate pills is cocoa flavanols, the nutrients in dark chocolate. While chocolate is an enjoyable snack, the amount of cocoa flavanols within a single chocolate bar is minimal. “You’re not going to get these protective flavanols in most of the candy on the market. Cocoa flavanols are often destroyed by the processing,” said Dr. JoAnn Manson, chief of preventive medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, where the chocolate study will be conducted.
In smaller studies, cocoa flavanols were found to improve cholesterol, blood pressure, and sensitivity to insulin. This is the first large scale study performed on the benefits of nutrients found in dark chocolate on heart health. There will be 18,000 participants. Some will receive chocolate pills, and some will receive a placebo. The pills will not taste like chocolate; in fact, they will have no flavor at all. Participants will receive 750 milligrams of cocoa flavanols a day. It may not be as exciting as eating a chocolate bar, but with all the nutrients, and without the sugar and calories, it will definitely be healthier.
A second part of this study is testing multivitamins in the attempt to prevent cancer. Dr. Manson has another study under way on the benefits of Vitamin D, which will conclude in three years.
We should not expect results from this study on the health benefits of chocolate any time soon. The participants will be consuming chocolate pills daily for four years. Dr. Manson cautions that moving too quickly is not a wise decision. It is possible that nutrients that at first look promising, could prove to be harmful in the long run.
Whether or not chocolate is the next big thing in heart health still remains to be seen. For now, we will have to consume our chocolate the old fashioned way, by eating it. That is good news for all chocolate lovers!
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