Good news about chocolate

Let's face it -- women LOVE chocolate! Research shows that chocolate affects levels of brain chemicals, like serotonin, which is probably why we love it so much.

Unfortunately, since we've been teens we've been hearing all about bad things that happen when you eat chocolate. We were told we'd get pimples, migraines, and fat. Chocolate was always a big no-no.

A number of years ago, my colleagues and I conducted a research study investigating the effects of chocolate on migraine. Participants in the study came to our clinic and received a large, 60 gram bar of chocolate or a similarly flavored carob bar. Headache activity and dietary intake was monitored for 24 hours after consumption. Interestingly, chocolate wasn't a migraine trigger -- even in people who had been convinced before the study that chocolate consistently triggered bad headaches. Eating chocolate with other potential trigger foods also didn't make a difference. The real test was when we heard from folks after the study who had been certain chocolate was a trigger. After completing our study without headaches, several opted to add their beloved chocolate back into their diets without an increase in headaches. We concluded that people may be eating chocolate in response to other migraine triggers, like skipping meals, stress, and menses, and then falsely blaming the chocolate for triggering a headache. Chocolate eating can also be a response to cravings that often occur at the first stages of a migraine that has already started. While chocolate may indeed be a trigger for some people, it's probably not a common trigger as had been previously believed.

Now there's more good news about chocolate -- a new study from the British Medical Journal reported that eating chocolate is good for your heart! After reviewing studies that included over 114,000 people, the researchers discovered that people eating more chocolate were less likely to develop heart disease:

  • Risk of heart disease was reduced by 37% among people eating a lot of chocolate
  • Risk of stroke was reduced by 29% in the heavy chocolate eaters

The researchers concluded that eating chocolate resulted in a "substantial reduction" in heart disease risk.

So let's not give chocolate an undeservedly bad rap. While you do need to monitor your calories, you shouldn't necessarily replace your chocolate treats with a different snack. And as you're savoring that first bite as the smooth chocolate melts in your mouth -- enjoy. Doctors now believe chocolate's good for your heart.

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