Patrick has been researching and writing about breakthrough tech for over 30 years. He has written over 200 editorials for USA Today. He has appeared in the Wall Street Journal and on CNN’s Crossfire news program.

Patrick has also served as a consultant for national political campaigns and Fortune 500 companies. He’s interviewed and speaks regularly to a host of nationally known CEOs and Nobel Prize-winning scientists and researchers.
Tags: chocolate | cardiovascular disease | flavanols

Chocolate: Good or Bad for You?

By Tuesday, 21 June 2016 04:04 PM Current | Bio | Archive

You’ve probably seen — and clicked on — links to articles that regularly appear on various websites touting the health benefits of chocolate.

In fact, significant evidence has confirmed that moderate amounts of chocolate are good for several important predictors of health and lifespan, including insulin sensitivity, blood pressure, and LDL or “bad” cholesterol.

These claims have scientific support, too. An article that appeared in The Journal of Nutrition showed that chocolate improves blood pressure and insulin sensitivity. Another Journal of Nutrition article showed a number of benefits in terms of cardiovascular disease.

There’s one “but,” though.

We never know for sure how reliable any study really is. Researchers can make basic mistakes in study design. Fraud also happens in the world of peer-reviewed literature.

This is why meta-analysis (a statistical technique for combining the findings from independent studies) can be helpful in validating studies such as the ones I just cited.

Meta-analysis looks at many individual studies about a single research area to draw conclusions, which are more statistically significant due to the larger amounts of data. So I read through the meta-analysis of studies looking at chocolate’s effects on cholesterol, which appeared last year in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

It provides pretty compelling evidence that “intervention with dark chocolate/cocoa products significantly reduced serum low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and total cholesterol (TC) levels.”

So that’s a good thing, right?

I’d like to say it is. And for many people, it could be, but it would be inaccurate to say that it’s necessarily a net positive for everybody.

I have, for example, a pretty rare form of the CETP gene that gives me a healthy cholesterol profile.

So my risk/benefit calculation is different from most people’s. This is important. We all have different genomes and metabolisms. So we should all make decisions about dietary and supplement options based on our individual genotypes.

The truth is that some people will experience no real benefits from lowering LDL levels with chocolate. It’s even possible that adding chocolate to their diets could do more harm than good. Especially, if they can’t limit themselves to the absurdly small doses given to subjects in most clinical trials.

I mean, seriously, who can eat just a few squares of chocolate bar? In the interest of my waistline, I tend to avoid chocolate altogether.

This is why I think so many studies and articles focus on dark chocolate.

There’s another misconception about chocolate, which I find irritating but understandable.

The chemical actions of the cocoa flavanols believed to be responsible for the health benefits of chocolate are the same regardless of whether they are delivered as bitter dark chocolate or creamy milk chocolate.

Milk chocolate consists of the same flavanols. You just have to eat more milk chocolate to get the same amount of it. And that, of course, comes with additional fat, sugar, and milk, but that is essentially irrelevant.

Allow me to quote my nutritional-biologist wife who says the same thing when somebody asks if some food is healthy or unhealthy. “There are no healthy or unhealthy foods,” she says. “There are only healthy and unhealthy diets.”

This is true. You can eat almost anything in moderation if your overall diet is adjusted accordingly. People don’t understand this, and as a result there is the common misperception that dark chocolate is better for you than milk chocolate.

I’ve got a good example to illustrate the absurdity of this misconception.

I’ve seen people eating chunks of unpleasantly bitter dark chocolate with a sugar- and fat-loaded Frappuccino that has more calories than most people need in a single day. It would be far better, instead, to eat a little high quality milk chocolate with a cup of black coffee and adjust the rest of your diet accordingly.

I didn’t take chocolate seriously as a dietary supplement until a new study showed it significantly improves athletic performance and training.

I don’t believe, however, that chocolate is as effective as a training aid as nitrate-rich vegetables. Nevertheless, I’m adding a little chocolate to my diet because of the evidence that it enables more effective training.

But I’m not saying you should do the same.

Everybody’s calculations are different based on health, genetics, and goals. This is the problem, of course, with all supplements and drugs. Most people, however, think in binary terms. Is it good or bad? Even our institutions, such as the NIH and the FDA tend to think in terms of the average person instead of the individual.

My point is that there’s no single answer in health care. A drug or supplement can be life-saving for one person… but lethal for another.

Grab Patrick Cox’s fascinating report on today’s anti-aging supplements straight from the biotech lab.


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Significant evidence has confirmed that moderate amounts of chocolate are good for several important predictors of health and lifespan, including insulin sensitivity, blood pressure, and LDL or “bad” cholesterol.
chocolate, cardiovascular disease, flavanols
Tuesday, 21 June 2016 04:04 PM
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