Just in time for Halloween comes some curious good news about chocolate.
Perhaps that’s a shame as many a pleasant hour could be spent debating the biggest candy thrill to find in your bag at the end of your long travels.
I’ve been partial to candy corn; a guilty pleasure if there ever was one. My wife has been known to sneak the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups out of the candy bag and hide them in a dark corner of the refrigerator. She even buys Reese’s to hand out, and somehow they never leave the house. Reese’s are hard to beat for flavor or fat content. But fat doesn’t count any more than calories on Halloween night. It’s a known fact that Halloween candy eaten on Halloween night won’t make you round, but that rule stops at midnight.
Chocolate has been in the news lately, perhaps because we could use some good news. It is rare that something you really like turn out to be good for you. Chocolate is one of these things.
Chocolate, particularly dark chocolate, contains phenols that are potent ring structured chemicals that have some surprising physiologic effects. They cause a modest blood pressure reduction, and inhibit platelet clumping, thus measurably lessoning the stroke risk. The cholesterol profile is favorably affected by eating small amounts of dark chocolate regularly. All this adds up to less chance of a heart attack, the No. 1 killer of Americans, and always a popular Halloween theme. Flavonoids are also plentiful in chocolate, a class of compounds that is being investigated for anti-cancer properties.
And there is some evidence that dark chocolate makes you smarter.
These are small quirky little studies that don’t make it to the most respected of medical journals. But inquiring minds want to know (misquoting another journal: The National Enquirer). I fantasize that some chocolate-fueled moment of grandiose thinking, raised the following question: What is the connection between countries’ chocolate consumption and their Nobel Prize haul? Dr. Franz Messerli actually asked this; reminding us the narrowest of margins between genius and madness. He calculated the chocolate consumption per capita per country, and compared the Nobel Prize rate per capita per country. These two variables have a surprisingly high degree of correlation. That is “science speak” for countries that make chocolate a national priority, win far more Nobel prizes than those that don’t. The more chocolate, the more Nobel prizes.
This is a particularly cheery revelation. Kind of gives you hope, of a second chance to make your mark. Who needs advanced chemistry or theoretical physics, give me a bonbon.
Have a dark (chocolate) Halloween.
Donald Bucklin, MD (Dr. B) is a Regional Medical Director for U.S. HealthWorks and has been practicing Clinical Occupational Medicine for more than 25 years. Dr. B works in our Scottsdale, Arizona clinic.