Friday, March 18, 2005

Positive news of the day - Chocolate is good for you! (says Mars research)

Is Chocolate Good For You?

Should chocolate be an essential component of a balanced diet? Back in the 17th and 18th centuries, many treatises were written extolling the medicinal virtues of chocolate and today it's a regular feature in army food rations.

During the Gulf War, critical equipment flown out to US forces included a specially formulated heat-stable chocolate bar. But the jury is still out on whether or not it's good for us.

Chocolate toothpaste
Chocolate could help prevent tooth decay, according to scientists at Japan's Osaka University. The husks of the cocoa beans from which chocolate is made contain an antibacterial agent that fights plaque. These husks are usually discarded in chocolate production, but in future they could be added back in to chocolate to make it dental-friendly.

They concluded that the cavity-fighting action of cocoa bean husks isn't enough to offset decay caused by chocolate's high sugar content, however, so chocolate isn't going to replace toothpaste any time soon.

Hearty findings
Californian scientist Professor Carl Keen and his team have suggested that chocolate might help fight heart disease. They say that it contains chemicals called flavinoids, which thin the blood, helping to prevent clotting. Scientists have already suggested that red wine acts in this way. However, sceptics have pointed out that Keen's research is funded by confectionery maker Mars.

Good news and bad news
Researchers at Harvard University have carried out experiments that suggest that if you eat chocolate three times a month you will live almost a year longer than those who forego such sweet temptation.

But it's not all good news - the Harvard research also suggested that people who eat too much chocolate have a lower life expectancy. Chocolate's high fat content means that excess indulgence can contribute to obesity, leading to an increased risk of heart disease.

It looks like the old adage of "everything in moderation" holds. But if you can't resist chocolate, at least stick to dark. It's higher in cocoa than milk chocolate and helps to increase levels of HDL, a type of cholesterol that helps prevent fat clogging up arteries.

Death by chocolate
Dogs and other domestic animals like horses metabolise the chocolate ingredient theobromine more slowly than humans. Safe doses for us could be toxic or even lethal doses for our pets, affecting their hearts, kidneys and central nervous systems.


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