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Published on February 11th, 2013 | by DrKaayla

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Like Sex, Like Chocolate

A few years back Cadbury Chocolate did a survey, and announced with great fanfare that more than half the women in the UK would rather curl up with chocolate bar than let a man get a leg over.  That was not good news for those British men who liked to boast that they had more than a stiff upper lip!

Seems the researchers asked 1,524 adults how they liked to treat themselves. About 66 percent of the women saw chocolate as a “mood enhancer,” and the 18-24 year old women even knew the industry buzz about chocolate “releasing mood enhancing endorphins.”

The most startling find was 52 percent of the women said they’d choose chocolate over sex.  As one of the women put it, “Chocolate provides guaranteed pleasure.”

Two things about this quote struck me right away:  First, McDonalds and other fast-food franchises have built their businesses on the guarantee of the exact same mediocre experience every time.   Secondly, seems to me a love affair with chocolate need not be an “either-or” proposition.  How about “and-both.” In other words, enjoy chocolate and sex together!  Whether or not chocolate arouses us with phenylethylamine and other potent “love chemicals,” it’s a time-honored gift in courtship rituals.

This headline-grabbing study from the Brits was part of a marketing push for chocolate that’s been going on for about a decade now though everything that came after that one was, shall we say, anticlimactic!    In this blog, I”m not going lay out which of the chocolate  studies are valid, which justify hope, which are mere hype — and why .   That would take a book the size of The Whole Soy Story.  For now, I’ll just share some naughty bytes, starting with two great headlines I found in my email box from Nutra-Ingredients-USA:

“Nestle builds science to support cocoa polyphenol claims”

“Hershey builds on health portfolio.”

Notice here what Big Choc has built —  a “science base” that has been helped chocolate shed its image as a “bad snack” and helped it emerge as a “health food” with “goodness benefits.” As senior vice president Michele Buck of Hershey said, “This interest is driving explosive growth.”

To date, most of the health claims for chocolate (soft) center on cocoa’s antioxidant capacity.  Although the studies are inconsistent, some evidence does link cocoa’s polyphenols, flavanols and other antioxidants to a positive effect on circulatory system diseases, mental health, Type 2 diabetes, cancer, inflammatory diseases and weight loss.   There have even been headlines such as, “Should cocoa flavanol be classed as a ‘vitamin’?  The chocolate industry, of course, has taken this hype straight to the bank.   And with few people warning that for bitter cocoa to taste good and become the chocolate we all love, sugar — sometimes a lot of sugar — goes into the mix.

Scientists not in the employ of Willy Wonka or other chocolate companies remain less convinced. An article in the April 2007 issue of the American Chemical Society’s journal Chemical Research in Toxicology quoted scientists from Rutgers with a sober warning:

 “Although consumption of dietary phytochemicals such as flavonoids has been suggested to have beneficial biological effects  including the prevention of cancer and heart disease, there is considerable evidence to suggest that such compounds are not without risk of adverse effects.   The risk of adverse effects is likely increased by the use of pharmacological doses in prevention/treatment and supplement situations . . . that may increase the bioavailability of test compounds.”

Besides the polyphenols found in chocolate, the Rutgers team was concerned about excessive consumption of green tea polyphenols and genistein from soy.  Having personally researched genistein in depth, this definitely resonated with me.  The takeaway: Always look long and hard at the marketing behind any health claims, however impressive they might first appear!

Now what about those British ladies?  Knowing the ins and outs of study design, data recording and conclusions,  I expect they didn’t really say what Cadbury said they said.  Sad if really true. One thing’s certain though: when it comes to chocolate, the marketing is way ahead of the science.  In time, that will undoubtedly sort itself out though it may take someone — not me! —  writing The Whole Chocolate Story. In the meantime, The Naughty Nutritionist® would like to know whether chocolate — presumably dark, unsweetened, traditionally processed cocoa nibs —  was the secret to Montezuma’s legendary reputation as a lover.

 

 

PAID ENDORSEMENT DISCLOSURE: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog.

 

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