Adam Morris: Is our guilty pleasure really choc-full of medical hope?

A new study suggests chocolate might be good for you, as health reporter ADAM MORRIS discovers

GENERATIONS have been warned of its perils as parents across the country strive to hide it in high places, out of reach from gasping children.

It is said to ruin your teeth, pile on the pounds and put you at an increased risk of conditions such as diabetes.

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But research this week showing chocolate could also be a remedy for coughs is the latest in a line of possible health benefits provided by the nation's favourite guilty pleasure.

In yet another study which contradicts the teachings of mothers, scientists said a chemical found in chocolate and cocoa can reduce the impact of a "persistent cough" , which affects around 7.5 million Britons every year.

It adds further weight to an argument everyone wants to hear; chocolate is good for you.

Persistent cough

Many types of chocolate contain the chemical theobromine, which stops the "inappropriate firing" of the nerve which causes a cough. The stripped-down chemical could be on the drug market within two years. Experts said the substance itself is tasteless, meaning people who don't even like chocolate could benefit.

Mental health

Researchers have claimed for some time that chocolate can act as a mild anti-depressant, even if only for a short time. Despite many people being beset by guilt after tucking into a selection box, a recent study showed as many as one in four report feeling better after a cocoa fest. However, it was emphasised that this was short-lived, and hardly a definitive cure for depression.

What is more encouraging is it ability to relieve stress. It contains a compound called anandamide which redresses the body's biochemistry.

Blood pressure

Dark chocolate in particular, despite being significantly less healthy than its milk counterpart, was found by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition to bring down blood pressure.

It stated that 100g of dark chocolate every day for a fortnight had a noticeable impact on blood pressure.

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A study involving 19,000 Europeans backed this up, with results showing 37 per cent of them were at a lower risk of suffering a stroke having eaten an extra bar a week.

However, only months later a study published in the British Medical Journal found that a placebo drug and tomato extracts were more effective in subjects monitored in Australia.


Despite links between sugar and diabetes, chocolate has actually been found to cut the risk of heart disease in women who already have the condition. That said, parallels between obesity, which a chocolate-rich diet may lead to, and diabetes are unavoidable.

The heart

Residents of a remote island near Panama were recently found to have a much lower than average incidence of heart disease. When scientists looked closer they found nothing in their genes to explain this.

After much investigation, which involved studying some of those who had left the island, the only common denominator was a chocolate-based drink which was a staple for all who lived there.

General pleasure

While claims that chocolate is an aphrodisiac are yet to be scientifically proven, another study of the heart rate suggested it beats faster when chocolate is melting in the mouth than it does during a passionate kiss.

• Health bosses are sceptical about many of these claims, with the NHS stating surveys are often "selective" and carried out by the very people who stand to benefit from chocolate receiving a positive press. But the organisation doesn't want to spoil the party completely, re-iterating "chocolate may still be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet".

Nutritionists have backed that sentiment, with some comparing it to alcohol; enjoyable and acceptable in moderation, but problematic if overdone.

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Lula Edmonds, who works at the Chocolate Tree on Bruntsfield, said while there were definite benefits to be had, the majority of customers sought chocolate as a treat. "We do get people coming into ask about our different types of chocolate and what health benefits they provide," she said.

"We have some raw chocolate without anything extra in it which fits that.

"But mostly people want the taste and experience. There is still a guilt attached to it, people are often thinking out loud when they come in wondering if they should indulge or not.

"A lot of the negative elements come with additives and chemicals, whereas here we work really hard to make sure it is as high-quality as possible."

Chocolate Stats

• The average person in the UK eats 9kg of chocolate every year, equivalent to three bars a week

• Women are twice as likely to indulge than men

• Cadbury's pays around 125 million a year in tax to the Government

• Around one in seven bars in the UK are Fairtrade

• The country's favourite chocolate, Dairy Milk, sells 300 million bars a year

• More than 500,000 tonnes of chocolate are consumed every year