Is dark chocolate really good for you?

Humans have been consuming some form of chocolate for hundreds of years. For most of this time, it was in the form of liquid cocoa, made from cocoa beans.

Some cultures — but not all — have since added sugar, milk, and shiny wrappers. Meanwhile, those who still consume cocoa in more traditional ways have sparked a debate about whether chocolate can be good for our health.

The Kuna Indians, for example, who live on Panama’s San Blas Islands, have low blood pressure that does not increase with age, low levels of heart attacks, strokes, diabetes and cancer. , and they tend to die old, says Marji. McCullough, senior scientific director of research in epidemiology at the American Cancer Society.

And contrary to the scientific consensus that too much salt can raise blood pressure, their diet contains as much salt as the average American.

To find out exactly what they consume on a daily basis, McCullough visited the Kuna Indians. She found that they consumed about four cups of cocoa – cocoa mixed with water and small amounts of sugar – each day.

But McCullough can’t attribute the Kuna Indians’ good health to cocoa consumption with certainty, especially since they also ate twice as much fruit and four times as much fish as the average American diet. Moreover, they lead a more active life than we generally do in the West.

Many other observational studies have looked at the heart benefits of dark chocolate, but they may be biased because people who eat chocolate more frequently tend to worry less about their weight, says JoAnn Manson, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. . She adds that they may also be healthier to begin with.

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In one study, researchers looked at the diets and health of 20,000 people and found that eating up to 100g of chocolate – including milk chocolate – per day was associated with a lower risk of heart disease and of cerebrovascular accident. They controlled for other factors that could influence this, including smoking and exercise levels, but said there could be explanations other than chocolate.

And then came a large clinical trial that could control other possible causes, like diet and lifestyle. It was based on the intuition that cocoa’s potential health benefits might be due to its high content of flavonoids, plant compounds also found in berries and tea.