REPORTER: Claudia Bertorello
BROADCAST DATE: April 18, 2003
It's exactly what we want to hear just before Easter - it seems chocolate's nice, not naughty and it might even be a healthy habit. For years we've been told to avoid it but new research dispels the myths, showing chocolate should be part of our diet.
Glenn Cardwell is a nutritionist who consults for Cadbury.
He says he has weighed up the pros and cons of chocolate and concludes there are at least 10 good reasons to eat it.
"Throw away your vitamin pills, a chocolate a day - 70g a day - makes you feel wonderful," he said.
Myth number one: chocolate makes you fat.
It seems that's false.
"Chocolate won't make you fat," Mr Cardwell said.
"You can't point the finger at any single food as being a cause of being overweight."
Myth two: chocolate makes you feel happy.
This is true, thank goodness - and there is even a bit of science to explain it.
"Chocolate makes a lot of people feel happy, because when you eat something you enjoy, it triggers the release of endorphins in the brain and these are just naturally occurring happy chemicals," Mr Cardwell said.
"And you can't help but eat chocolate and feel happy for doing so."
In fact, if you're feeling down in the dumps, some doctors say eating a few hundred grams of the good stuff is just as good as popping some Prozac.
Some research even suggests chocolate will make you live longer.
"If people enjoyed chocolate on a regular basis they lived longer than those people who had none whatsoever, by about a year," Mr Cardwell said.
Chocolate myth three: it raises your cholesterol levels.
This is false - another chocolate furphy.
"All the research in the last 10 to 15 years has shown chocolate is cholesterol neutral, that it won't raise your blood cholesterol nor lower it," Mr Cardwell said.
And it seems chocolate even has a role in reducing heart disease.
"Many studies have shown that cocoa mass in chocolate is the bit that contains the antioxidants and these reduce the levels of danger," Mr Cardwell said.
"Chocolate may well be protecting you from heart disease. "
Chocolate maker Rick Turen swears by its health powers.
"I believe it makes me feel good and we have very little sickness in this shop - all our workers eat chocolate all day," he said.
"Chocolate is a euphoric drug, no doubt about it. It makes you really happy."
But is it as good as a vitamin pill?
"Chocolate will provide you with reasonable amounts of zinc, iron and of course, if you have milk chocolate, calcium as well," Mr Cardwell said.
"So in a fashion it is like a multivitamin."
Chocolate myth six: it give you pimples - false.
"Acne is more of an hormonal imbalance and that's why we get it more as teenagers - it's a puberty problem more than a chocolate problem," Mr Cardwell said.
It seems another myth - chocolate is bad for your teeth - is not true at all.
And research shows chocolate could help airline travellers, by preventing deep vein thrombosis.
Chocolate is not full of caffeine and migraine sufferers can take heart: it seems chocolate does not cause headaches.
Counsellor Christine Sutherland helps chocoholics kick the habit.
"What's not healthy is probably eating it every day," she said.
"And if we find ourselves engaging in that secretive behaviour, where we're eating it behind the pantry door or in the top drawer or just taking it out when nobody's looking and we've got shame or guilt, there's something wrong there and we need to at look at it."
Ms Sutherland says moderation is the key and 50g a day is the recommended dose.
"I think chocolate in moderation - moderation in everything," she said.
"If we're eating chocolate once a week, maybe twice a week, that' s not a problem if we're active, healthy people."
But the jury is still out on one important question: whether chocolate is an aphrodisiac.
"Maybe for a lot of people it is," Mr Cardwell said.
"I suggest this Easter you try it out and maybe we'll have a baby boom at Christmas."
Source: Today Tonight http://www.todaytonight.com.au/stories/540721.html