LIVING HEALTHY – DR. ROBIN MILLER– I have had an ongoing love affair with chocolate.  It is actually more of a love hate relationship. Once I start eating it, I just can’t stop. Needless to say, I am always looking for health reasons to justify my consumption and at the same time keep me from overindulging.

I have noticed that almost monthly there are studies being reported that speak to the health benefits of this delectable treat. The latest results published this month are intriguing. A group of Italian researchers enlisted 90 elderly patients with mild cognitive impairment to be given a daily chocolate drink for two months that contained cocoa flavanols of different amounts (high, intermediate or low).  Flavanols are the healthy antioxidants in chocolate.  As one might expect the compliance was excellent, almost 100%.

Cognitive function was evaluated using a series of tests.  At the end of the study those who had been drinking the high and intermediate flavanol drinks completed tests more quickly. Their verbal fluency improved as well, but the high flavanol group improved most.

Those given the high and intermediate flavanols showed a decrease in insulin resistance and blood pressure and their total cholesterol, triglycerides and LDL cholesterol started to shift in a healthy direction.

It is doubtful that Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, high cholesterol and high blood pressure will be cured by chocolate alone. However, a small amount of chocolate a day along with exercise and a healthy eating plan can certainly help.

All in all this is looking good for chocolate lovers.  It is important to note, however that the healthy parts of chocolate (the flavanols) are found in highest concentration in dark chocolate. Make sure you find chocolate that has a cocoa content of 65% or higher. It is also high in calories so moderation is definitely the key when it comes to adding it to your diet. Eating no more than 3.5 ounces is considered the therapeutic amount.

Our ancestors were very wise indeed.  Chocolate has been used for medicinal reasons for over 4000 years.  Now we have the studies to show why it makes sense. I have no doubt there will be even more information and results in the months and years to come.

Chocolate lovers take heart by taking a dark chocolate bar and eating a very small part!

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