I was just noshing on a bit of health food – a dark chocolate bar – when I read that my sweet snack may not be as good for me as once thought.
Last month, an editorial in the British medical journal Lancet warned that while nutrients in dark chocolate can improve cardiovascular health, manufacturers often remove the heart-healthy chemicals. The bitter taste of flavanols, antioxidants that have been linked to protection against heart disease, has led many companies to remove them during the chocolate-production process.
Just in case you were thinking of checking the label for flavanols in your chocolate bar, manufacturers rarely include that information, according to the editorial. And the Lancet emphasized that even with the flavanols, dark chocolate is no substitute for other heart-healthy foods: “The devil in the dark chocolate is the fat, sugar and calories it also contains.”
Another strike against chocolate came this month in a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, which linked frequent chocolate consumption to decreased bone density and strength in older women. After testing 1,001 women aged 70 to 85, researchers found that those who ate chocolate less than once a week had significantly stronger bones than those who consumed chocolate daily. The Australian researchers listed oxalate, sugar and cocoa as ingredients in chocolate that may prevent the body from utilizing calcium to strengthen bones.
How am I supposed to decide what to eat when scientists keep changing their minds on whether certain foods are good for me? It seems that foods are like stocks, with nutritional value going up and down as new research comes out highlighting health benefits and dangers. Based on these studies, I suppose dark chocolate has fallen to a new 52-week low.
But take solace in the fact that the stock of another guilty pleasure is on the rise: I’m heading to the pub for an anti-cancer beer.