The Case for Dark Chocolate and Good Health

July 30, 2007

Chocolate:  The Case for Dark Chocolate and Good Health 

 Competency # 20: Cuisines of the Long-Lived               ReferenceJAMA  July 4th, 2007  vol 298 pa 49  Taubertet al 

 Hurray, Hurray.  It’s really true.  My inner elephant is dancing for joy. (The visual here is disturbing) He can now lie and cheat and argue and complain the rest of my life, and I will just have to put up with him because he is right.  He can have chocolate and make the case that it’s, “Good for you!”  This is like Christmas in July and Chanukah in Spring.  Let’s all go out and play, because we can have Chocolate, dark brown, tasty, luscious chocolate.  Not only allowed, encouraged! 

 Bless Taubert et al.  In prestigiousJAMA, just last week is a randomized, controlled trial in which even the investigators didn’t know what the participants were getting.  They were all borderline hypertensive, sort of like many of us.  Dark chocolate, rich in polyphenols, was secretly wrapped and distributed with elaborate care to the volunteers.  The volunteers were “sworn to secrecy”.  They knew what they were getting.  Wouldn’t you!  The poor control group got white chocolate.  Bummer.  Now, it was only 6.3 grams.  That’s just a quarter of an ounce or one square of a 16 square chocolate 4 oz chocolate bar.  Participants were given this every day for 18 weeks.  Does this sound like heaven or what?  50% cocoa, but only 2% of daily calories. 

 Guess what happened!  By 18 weeks, their blood pressure had dropped by 2.9 over 1.9 mm Hg.  That’s about half of what the DASH diet will do for you.  That’s meaningful.  The lower your blood pressure, the longer you live.   They attributed the change to increased S-nitrosoglutathione in their blood.  That’s a compound that is part of making nitric acid that lowers your blood pressure.  Sort of through the same mechanism that nitroglycerin under the tongue helps chest pain get better.  It relaxes arteries and makes blood pressure go down.  White chocolate didn’t do it.  Didn’t matter if you were male or female.  Worked in everyone.  Lowering your blood pressure is so important, it’s the foundation for our evidence based diet.   

We want to lower our blood pressure through eating less salt, reducing stress, lowering our insulin, getting enough sleep.  All the things your mother told you to do.  Now, you can add one she told you not to do.  Eat chocolate every day.  And think how happy you will be. Ok.  So get real.  How much chocolate?  6 grams.  Not 6 ounces.  One square.  Not the whole candy bar.  No, not a Dove bar, only one eighth of a Dove Bar.  But, it's "good" for you.

 WWW:  What will work for me.   Try telling that to your inner elephant. No doubt he will pout.  But Hershey makes a magnificent new product called Hershey Sticks.  Little tiny dark chocolate sticks.  I bet sales go up.  I’m planning on indulging. Occasionally, sort of like having just 4 oz of wine.  Can you stop?  I went to Leon’s last week.  I got the giant hot fudge with pecans.  That’s about 8 weeks supply all at once.  I’ll try better next time.  I need to have a conversation with Hathi, the elephant.

This column is written by Dr. John E. Whitcomb, MD, Brookfield Longevity, Brookfield, WI, (262-784-5300)