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Biomedical Engineering

The Biomedical Engineering blog is the place for conversation and discussion about topics related to engineering principles of the medical field. Here, you'll find everything from discussions about emerging medical technologies to advances in medical research. The blog's owner, Chelsey H, is a graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) with a degree in Biomedical Engineering.

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Chocolate and Alcohol — Good for Your Heart?

Posted April 03, 2012 12:00 AM by Chelsey H

I love when things taste good and are good for you too! Who doesn't? While it doesn't always work out so nicely for things like the potato chips I'm eating right now…chocolate and alcohol have a shot (pun intended) of going on the good and good for you list.

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As a woman, chocolate has a special place in my heart and I feel that I can safely say that for the majority of my gender. We learned of the aphrodisiac effects of chocolate from HUSH's Courtship Chemistry blog post and now a study has found that people who ate chocolate more frequently have a lower body mass index (BMI).

The study was done by Dr. Beatric Golomb and a team of researchers at the University of California, San Diego, and is published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Golomb hypothesized that modest, regular chocolate consumption might be calorie-neutral. This means that the metabolic benefits of eating a modest amount of chocolate might reduce fat deposition per calorie and offset the added calories. The study surveyed 1,018 men and women between the ages of 20 to 85 years old about their weekly food intake. The results of the surveys showed that those who reported eating more chocolate had lower BMIs. Also surprising was the lower BMI group did not report eating fewer calories or exercising more. The size effect was slim (again with the puns) but the effect was large enough to be significant and no differences in behaviors could be identified.

Unfortunately, this does not mean you can eat chocolate all day, every day and get skinny. Dr. Susan Roberts, director of the Energy Metabolism Laboratory at the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, isn't convinced. She was concerned about the self-reporting nature of the study and how the team handled people who didn't actually report their calorie consumption. This is especially relevant since overweight and obese people under-report the "bad stuff" they eat and normal weight individuals may over-estimate the number of calories they were consuming. Both parties (Golomb and Roberts) agree that more research should be done with controls to directly observe if chocolate's metabolic benefits can offset the calories consumed. Both women also agree to the many benefits of chocolate already proven. This includes a high amount of anti-oxidants (especially dark chocolate), anti-inflammatory properties, helping to reduce HDL (good cholesterol) and lower LDL (bad cholesterol), improve insulin sensitivity, and helping to reduce the risk of developing heart disease. But as with everything in life, it's good in moderation. Chocolate does contain a high number of calories and irresponsible use of chocolate can actually cause all the problems that it helps to prevent.

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While I don't like alcohol as much as I like chocolate, I feel that it has more appeal across both genders. And, it does have its good points. According to recent studies alcohol can help heart attack victims live longer. The study was done by Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston. It was led by Dr. Jennifer Pai and published in the online edition of European Heart Journal.

Researchers in the U.S monitored 1,818 men for up to 20 years after they survived a heart attack between 1986 and 2006. Every four years they were surveyed to evaluate their lifestyle, include diet and alcohol intake. Moderate drinking was defined as two 4 ounce glasses of wine, two bottles or cans or beer, or a shot of spirits a day. The results of the study showed that long-term moderate alcohol consumption among men who survived a heart attack had a 42% lower risk of dying from heart disease than non-drinkers. It furthered showed that their risk of death from any cause was reduced by 14%. To be clear, this was only seen in the group labeled "moderate" drinkers. High consumption wiped out the survival gains and it was most clearly found in men who consumed moderate amounts of alcohol prior to the heart attack and then continued after the attack. This video explains more.

Previous studies demonstrated that moderate alcohol consumption has been associated with a lower risk of heart disease and death in healthy people. Alcohol has also been linked to increasing HDL, improving insulin sensitivity, decreased fibrinogen, and decrease inflammation. (And adding strawberries doesn't hurt either). Unfortunately these results aren't necessarily the same for women. Image Credit:

Now this can be an instance of "too much of a good thing." While there is some glimmer of satisfaction you can gain by having a drink and a piece of chocolate after a long day, there is a fine line between what's good for you and what's bad for you. So enjoy your treat and know that you're treating your heart right…just don't do so at the expense of the rest of your body.

Image Credit: KGO news


CNN Health- Could eating chocolate make you thinner?

The Telegraph- Alcohol can help heart attack victims live longer

Regular Chocolate Eaters are Thinner


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Re: Chocolate and Alcohol — Good for Your Heart?

04/03/2012 11:36 PM

Thank you ever so much. i will have this framed and put it on the wall next to my PC.

Er...can anyone find a similar study about the good effects of smoking? i wait with bated breath.....

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Re: Chocolate and Alcohol — Good for Your Heart?

04/04/2012 4:42 PM

Very funny, I'm eager to read that study too.

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Re: Chocolate and Alcohol — Good for Your Heart?

04/04/2012 12:02 AM

Whether it is chocolate or alcohol , limited consumption does not pose serious health problem.

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Re: Chocolate and Alcohol — Good for Your Heart?

04/04/2012 4:09 AM

The thing that interested me most was that both are said to reduce inflammation. As an Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) sufferer who is allegic to painkillers and anti-inflammatories, this is music to my ears.

Now it may be coincidence, but I haven't had much chocolate in the last few days, and my inflammation levels are up. As a result I'm eating more chillis as they are said to reduced inflammation. Chelse/HUSH: do you think we could have a blog on that subject, please?

On the alcohol front, I'm wondering if spirits are as beneficial - is it the alcohol or something else in a brewed drink? You see (tissues ready) I'm allergic to wine - and can't drink beer as it contains gluten. At £2.50 for a bottle (500 ml / ~1 pint) of gluten free beer, I don't indulge all that often, not when I can buy Swedish pear cider at £5 for 3!!

Of course my consultant told me to limit my alcohol intake due to its effects in conjunction with the meds....

Chaos always wins because it's better organised.
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Re: Chocolate and Alcohol — Good for Your Heart?

04/04/2012 9:21 AM

I'd say that if you preference is for vodka and orange juice, then have at it. I doubt that alcohol, which is itself toxic, is in fact chemically altering the body to produce the benefits described in the article. It seems more likely to me that the calming effect that an alcoholic beverage produces in turn yeilds the other positive results.

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Re: Chocolate and Alcohol — Good for Your Heart?

04/05/2012 12:07 AM

Some people, and I believe some studies, swear by the pain relieving effects of tart cherry juice. I'm told 1 tablespoon of concentrate a day is all that is needed.

Drink it, don't rub it on. Although, that could take your mind off your pain, depending on who is doing the rubbing.

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Re: Chocolate and Alcohol — Good for Your Heart?

04/05/2012 11:49 AM

One ingredient in chocolate that people like to use a rationale for eating it, is magnesium. You might try taking a magnesium supplement (or increase the dosage, if you already do) as an experiment.

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Re: Chocolate and Alcohol — Good for Your Heart?

04/05/2012 3:36 PM

Yes, I agree, is it the Alcohol or a component in the Alcohol.....

there should be more diffinite study's,

And the same with chocolet, how many different components are in chocolet, and which have the positive effects.


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Re: Chocolate and Alcohol — Good for Your Heart?

04/04/2012 8:43 AM

There are beneficial effects of different chemicals found in chocolate (dark chocolate has the highest concentration) and wines although there are other fruits and products that can be consumed to take in higher levels of those beneficial properties without the downside of the fats, sugars and alcohol.

I heard someone say, tongue in cheek, that chocolate is actually a vegetable since it is a bean and therefore he should eat a lot of chocolate in order to be healthy.

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Re: Chocolate and Alcohol — Good for Your Heart?

04/05/2012 7:40 AM

Chocolate, like other sweets, is good for digestion after meals....they say.

Alcohol is both good and bad at the same time. It's not easy for many to maintain the average intake which is bad. Alcohol is also like an elixir if taken in 'medically-recommended ' measure!

drinking wine helps you write good poetry and create other intellectual marvels but if taken in unregulated quantity it tends to make one a pig!


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Re: Chocolate and Alcohol — Good for Your Heart?

04/10/2012 11:41 PM

I fully subscribe to the report. A few notes are appropriate. The chocolate should be dark, 85% choko or better = bitter. The drinks are 1 shot for ladies, 2 for men per day for optimum results. Double it, and the effect disappears. There is no upper age limit.

EnglishRose. Rutgers University researchers discovered some 30 years ago, that some 30% of the population has bad reaction to the alkaloids in the nightshade family of plants: paprika, tomato, (potato), aubergine etc. A delayed reaction causes arthritis. Elimination and observation is the only way. It takes month(s) for certainty.

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