Remember when you were told eating chocolate would make you fat and give you pimples? For many years, chocolate was non grata as a health food, and carob–a food most often eaten by camels–often was recommended as a substitute. The tide has changed over the last decade, as study after study has shown chocolate–especially dark chocolate–to be chock full of health benefits. A potent antioxidant, dark chocolate can help lower blood pressure and increase high-density lipoproteins (the so-called “good cholesterol”).
Now research has shown that eating dark chocolate reduces blood levels of C-reactive protein–a marker of inflammation associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. A group of Italian researchers conducted a clinical study of 824 subjects who regularly consumed dark chocolate and 1,317 subjects who ate no chocolate over the same period (the control group). After one year, the subjects who consumed one 20-gram serving of chocolate daily (about one-fourth of a 3-ounce chocolate bar) had significantly lower levels of serum C-reactive protein levels than the nonconsumers of chocolate. There was no further reduction in C-reactive protein concentrations for those dark chocolate lovers who consumed more than 20 grams a day, however. The study suggests that eating small doses of chocolate on a regular basis may reduce inflammation, while confirming the old adage “everything in moderation.”
For more information, see Journal of Nutrition 138(10): 1939-45.