There is good news and bad news today for chocolate lovers, especially those who love dark chocolate. The good news is that small amounts of dark chocolate may be very good for your heart.
A very nice study was published today that shows that a fairly small amount of dark chocolate has a powerful impact on C-reactive protein, which is a blood marker of inflammatory processes in the body. This protein is a powerful predictor of heart disease. Higher levels of C-reactive protein indicate chronic inflammation in the body which leads to more risk of cardiovascular disease.
Scientists at the Research Laboratories of the Catholic University in Campobasso, working with the national Cancer Institute of Milan conducted a large scale study of 20,000 people that examined the intake of dark chocolate and found that those people who eat moderate amounts of dark chocolate regularly have C-reactive protein levels 17% lower than those who do not consume dark chocolate. This seems like a small difference, but it correlates with a decrease in cardiovascular disease of one third in women and one fourth in men. This is actually a very significant finding.
So what’s the bad news? The bad news is the quantity of dark chocolate the researchers found optimum. The best effect was obtained by consuming an average amount of 6.7 grams of chocolate per day. Since the typical bar of dark chocolate is 100 grams that means the optimum dose of dark chocolate would be obtained by eating four small squares of chocolate per week. This means eating half a bar of chocolate per week, or roughly one small square every two days. So that’s the bad news, you have to limit your dark chocolate in order to benefit maximally. In this study they found those who ate more than this amount lost most of the benefits. So a little is good but more is not better!
By the way, the researchers adjusted for many other factors, and are confident that the dark chocolate had an impact directly. And for those who prefer milk chocolate, I am sorry, there was no benefit shown to eating milk chocolate.
As one of the lead researchers, Giovanni de Gaetano, director of the Research Laboratories of the Catholic University of Campobasso, said, “Maybe time has come to reconsider the Mediterranean diet pyramid and take the dark chocolate off the basket of sweets considered to be bad for our health”. So that’s the good news, you can eat dark chocolate in moderation, without guilt. The bad news is that you have to stop after one small square!
I’ve got to go now, as I’ve got a lovely Le Noir Extra Amer 85% Cacao bar of Dark Bitter Chocolate waiting for me…
Copyright © 2008 The Psychology Lounge/TPL Productions
All Rights reserved (Any web links must credit this site, and must include a link back to this site.)
Dr. Andrew Gottlieb is a clinical psychologist in Palo Alto, California. His practice serves the greater Silicon Valley area, including the towns of San Jose, Cupertino, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, Mountain View, Los Altos, Menlo Park, San Carlos, Redwood City, Belmont, and San Mateo. Dr. Gottlieb specializes in treating anxiety, depression, relationship problems, OCD, and other difficulties using evidence-based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT is a modern no-drug therapy approach that is targeted, skill-based, and proven effective by many research studies. Visit his website at CambridgeTherapy.com or watch Dr. Gottlieb on YouTube. He can be reached by phone at (650) 324-2666 and email at: Dr. Gottlieb Email.