Most of us love it. Some crave it, but are there really health benefits of chocolate? And are there specific benefits such as the alleviation of depression?
Regarding chocolate as a means of reducing blood pressure, cholesterol and lowering the body mass index and waist circumference, the evidence is quite good.
A study published in the American journal of Clinical Nutrition (July 2008, Vol. 88, 58-63) stated that chocolate “lowered blood pressure in overweight adults. ”
Another study, published in The Journal of the American Medical Association (2007; 298-9), stated that “Preliminary evidence suggested that regular consumption of polyphenols in cocoa (equivalent to at least 100 g of chocolate per day) was associated with lower blood pressure).
A study in the European Journal of clinical Nutrition (October, 2007) stated that chocolate, compared to candies, was associated with lower body mass and waist circumference.
It appears that the physical health benefits of chocolate are well documented.
Serious Chocolate Reviews
What about its effect on our mental state? Chocolate contains many chemicals that can affect our moods: caffeine, tyramine, flavonoids, phenylethylamine and others.
That theory is that these natural chemicals raise serotonin and endorphins levels; all the natural hormones that make us feel good and have a calming effect on brain function.
But this doesn’t happen to everyone.
How do you assess the results? A study was published in The British Journal of Psychiatry (2007, 191, 351-352) based on a survey of 2,692 who were suffering from clinical depression. 61% were classified as “cravers. ” This group rated chocolate’s capacity to improve their depressed mood as moderate to very important.
The study said that, after eating it, they were more likely to feel significantly less anxious and irritated. It also stated the craving might predict atypical depression status.
The Dark Side Part 1
Other people report that they experience a psychological crash after the feelings of euphoria have worn off. It may be the result of eating cheaper chocolate which is loaded with sugar, fat and calories.
Commonly referred to as the rebound effect, or the sugar high, it may actually worsen a depression.
In this situation the health benefits of chocolate would be minimal.
With moderation in mind, and if I could, I would like to ask these people about the amount of chocolate they are eating.
The Dark Side Part 2
In her recently published book, Bitter Chocolate: Investigating the Dark Side of the World’s Most Seductive Sweet Carol Off of CBC Radio detailed the sinister world of the cocoa industry.
There are facts about chocolate that we chocolate lovers should know about.
Due to extremely low prices, farmers in countries such as Ivory Coast in West Africa are using child labour to harvest the cocoa beans. The children are imported from adjoining countries such as Mali and Burkina Faso.