Monday, October 24, 2016

The Best News I've Ever Heard

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published October 26, 2016] ©2016
The news only gets better and better. In addition to chocolate’s many positive health benefits – foremost among them making life worth living – it has now been proven that it dramatically improves brain function.
I should mention that I have been collecting articles on the benefits of chocolate for many years. This is part of a tradition Olof and I have of giving each other framed articles at Christmas time extolling the virtues of whatever it was we were doing anyway – or confirming the deleterious effects of foods we don’t like. Olof, for example, hates tofu so I always framed articles for him suggesting that tofu causes dementia in middle aged men.  Neither of us is too fond of liver so anti-liver studies get prime space under our tree too. 
With chocolate research, however, science is making up for lost time. My whole chocolate-laden life, it’s been considered a dietary no-no, a demon whose lure I was constantly fighting. Not of course, that I ever won. Or even that I tried that hard. But now, like its fellow pariahs (coconut oil and eggs), chocolate is a health food. I was born before my time.
Over the last decade, as scientists have accepted increasing bribes from chocolate makers have delved into heretofore unknown health aspects of chocolate, the list of benefits of chocolate has expanded yearly.  Now dark chocolate is touted as a powerful (yes, they really did say powerful!) source of antioxidants – even more than blueberries or acai berries. (Consume a diet of chocolate covered blueberries and you could probably live forever.)
Dark chocolate is alleged to improve blood flow in the arteries and cause a small but “statistically significantly” (and we would never want to argue with statistics) decrease in blood pressure.  It lowers the susceptibility of LDL to oxidative damage while increasing HDL and improving insulin sensitivity.  Best of all, observational studies show a drastic (yes, drastic!) reduction in heart disease risk for the people who consume the most chocolate. Is this a deal or what?
There are even studies showing that flavanols (whatever the heck they are) from cocoa can improve blood flow to the skin and protect it against sun-induced damage. (Could I just slather a chocolate bar on my face and let it drip onto my tongue in the sun?)
Your doctor should be making you eat chocolate instead of all those wimpy vitamins that have now been proven to be useless. It goes without saying that Medicare should be covering it.
While chocolate benefit studies have been going increasingly in my favor, I haven’t always been able to experience its benefits myself.  A women’s magazine touted new scientific evidence suggesting that people who eat chocolate have less belly fat. Researchers hypothesized that antioxidant-rich dark chocolate may curb cortisol, a hormone that triggers ab flab. Snack on “two squares a day,” they recommended.  I’m guessing my squares were bigger than theirs.
But the new study that came out earlier this year about the cognitive benefits of eating chocolate make all those studies that came before it look like chocolate cream pie in the sky.
The Maine-Syracuse Longitudinal Study compared, over a five year period, people who ate chocolate at least once a week (“habitual chocolate consumption”) with people who didn’t.  The habituals “performed better cognitively” than the non-habituals.  Specifically, the chocolate chowers showed significantly superior ‘visual-spatial memory and (organization), working memory, scanning and tracking, (and) abstract reasoning.”  
As happy as I am with the results of this study, I couldn’t help but make a few observations. With all due respect, once a week is not habitual chocolate consumption. Once a day is not even habitual chocolate consumption. You want to see habitual chocolate consumption, stop in at Auntie Inga’s House of Avoirdupois pretty much anytime. 
The authors of the current study attempt to determine why, exactly, eating chocolate is associated with improved brain function.  Um, do we care?
Well, apparently THEY do. And despite having proven beyond any reasonable doubt, they’re still advocating only small amounts of chocolate in the diet. Um, why? God forbid anything that actually tastes really good could be eaten at will.  Does anyone ever tell you to eat broccoli in moderation? I think not. I’m thinking that right before the SATs, you should eat an entire five pound box of Godivas.
The author of the study noted:  “We only looked at people who were eating chocolate never or rarely versus once or more than once a week.”  He added, “I’d really like to see what happens when people eat a ton of chocolate.”
Look no further.  Here’s my number.
Framed copy of chocolate cognitive benefits article ready to be put under the Christmas tree

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