Chocolate Is Good For Your Heart, Study Shows, And Here Are 6 Other Ways It Can Improve Your Health
Dentists of the world, rejoice! A recent study has shown that chocolate is good for your heart, and you know what that means? Cavities on cavities on cavities, because I don't know about you guys, but I am most definitely taking that advice to heart. Despite common wisdom, research from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland indicates that there is little evidence to support cutting out chocolate in order to improve cardiac health. In fact, habitual chocolate consumption is linked to lower risk of cardiac disease and stroke, Medical Xpress reports. Is that tacit permission to eat chocolate all day, err day? No. No it is not. Am I going to take it that way anyway? Of course!
These findings were based on data from the EPIC-Norfolk study, which has been collecting information about 30,000 Norfolk adults' health habits for more than two decades. University of Aberdeen researchers compared the chocolate consumption of 21,000 EPIC-Norfolk participants with their rates of coronary heart disease (CHD) for an average of 12 years, and during that time, 14 percent of the participants experienced an episode of CHD or stroke. Chocolate consumption, however, was associated with an 11 percent lower risk for cardiovascular disease and a whopping 25 percent lower risk for associated death. It was also linked to a 23 percent lower risk for stroke and a nine percent decrease in risk for hospital admission. In other news, here is an artist's representation of what I will look like shortly after writing this article:
Ahem. Additionally, researchers found that those who ate more chocolate tended to have "lower weight (BMI), waist: hip ratio, systolic blood pressure, inflammatory proteins, diabetes and more regular physical activity," according to the press release. They also analyzed available data from nine other studies on the subject, which all pointed to the same conclusion: if you're looking to improve your cardiac health, there's no need to cut out chocolate completely.
However, it is important to note that this was a correlational study, so there are many factors at play here. As any social science major has heard approximately eight million times, correlation does not equal causation. For instance, one explanation for the findings could be that people who are at a higher risk for heart disease make sure to eat less chocolate. Furthermore, self-reported information is notoriously unreliable, so participants could underreport their chocolate consumption by accident.
That being said, there is a surprisingly large body of literature showing that chocolate could actually be good for you — in moderation, of course. Here are just a few other ways chocolate can improve your health:
1. Blood Pressure
As mentioned above, the University of Aberdeen isn't the first institution to find that chocolate is good for your cardiovascular system. A 2006 study found that certain flavanols in cocoa are associated with better blood flow.
2. Insulin Sensitivity
Back in 2004, a small Italian study found that dark chocolate improves insulin sensitivity in healthy adults. Side note: is anyone else wondering why the scientific community in the mid-2000s was so obsessed with chocolate?
3. Sun Protection
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File this one under "things that make absolutely no sense." A 2009 study found that those handy-dandy flavanoids found in chocolate could improve your skin's resistance to UV rays.
According to the Telegraph, a 2009 study found that mental math was easier for participants when they were given hot chocolate containing increased amounts of flavanols, possibly because the chemicals increased blood flow to the brain. However, scientists were quick to point out that it would be difficult to find that amount of the chemicals in a regular bar of chocolate, and fruits and vegetables contain the same helpful flavanols.
5. Cough Relief
For once, another chemical in chocolate has its chance to shine! A study from 2012 found that theobromine, a compound found in cocoa, is just as effective as codeine for preventing coughs, and it's 3000 percent more delicious (citation needed).
6. Stress Reduction
According to a study from 2009, people who considered themselves highly stressed ended up less stressed after eating chocolate every day for two weeks. So... what I'm hearing is next time I'm behind on a deadline, I can take a chocolate break? I hope so, because that's what I'm doing right now.