Can’t Live Without Chocolate?

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No problem. Scientists may one day claim you need the stuff to be at your healthiest.

It’s a theory growing from a study of the diets of a small Indian tribe in the Panamanian islands. High blood pressure is virtually unheard of within the group. And tribe members drink three or four 10-ounce servings of cocoa per day. Coincidence?
Killer Compounds
The Panamanian tribe doesn’t drink run-of-the-mill cocoa. Because of the gentle way they process their cocoa beans, their cocoa is chock-full of epicatechin, a flavonoid that helps widen and relax blood vessels. If the tribe’s lack of high blood pressure (as well as other diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer) does turn out to be because of epicatechin, researchers speculate that the flavonoid could one day be given vitamin status.

Other Potential Reasons

But before you buy stock in Hershey’s, there’s still research to be done. The tribe members also eat lots of fish and fruit, and their diet or their lifestyle — or both — may be part of the lack-of-disease equation. So far, researchers have ruled out genetics.

Bottom Line
What remains true: Flavonoids are good for your heart; lots of research points to this. But dark chocolate is just about your only hope for chocolate that hasn’t had its flavonoids completely destroyed by processing. And if you need to cut calories to lose weight, a little bit of chocolate goes a long way.