[choc]As young adults, we’ve been told to stay away from certain foods and beverages. Skip dessert most of the time: it’s only empty calories and lots of sugar. Watch the alcohol intake, because usually, three drinks are plenty. These messages have been drilled into the minds of typical college students: first by cautious parents, then by seemingly wiser peers and persuasive advertisements. However, the flip side of these messages has finally surfaced: forbidden foods, including dark chocolate, dark beer and red wine, may actually provide health benefits.
Try this chocolate, Charlie
Eating chocolate produces serotonin, the chemical of pleasure, inside the brain. It also triggers a dopamine release inside the brain, creating an effect similar to opium. And now, researchers have discovered it is a rich source of flavonoids and gallic acids, ingredients to prevent heart attacks and strokes. And best of all, many will attest to the notion that chocolate is delicious.
Earlier this month, researchers at Johns Hopkins University examined how long participants’ platelets took to clot. A platelet is a small blood cell needed for normal blood clotting. The results proved the platelets of chocoholics clump up seven seconds slower than those who steer away from chocolate indulgences. When platelets take longer to clot, people are better protected against heart attacks and stroke. Platelets also are important for wound healing, clotting the blood at the site of an injury. John Hopkins University researchers aren’t the only ones finding dark chocolate to be highly beneficial. In Chicago, on Nov. 15, 2006, the American Heart Association agreed with JHU findings.
Some MSU students have already caught on to the phenomenon of dark chocolate, receiving the benefits whether or not they realize it. Political science senior Alessa Thomas has favored dark chocolate since childhood. “My mom used to buy dark chocolate chips instead of regular ones,” said Thomas. “She’s a chemistry teacher, so she knows how that goes. It grows on you.” In high school, Thomas studied the mental and physical health effects of dark chocolate. She now makes sure to eat a miniature piece of dark chocolate daily.
Before rushing out to buy a super-sized bag of Hershey\’s dark chocolate, remember that idea that chocolate is fattening? Two-thirds of the fat in chocolate come in forms of saturated fat called stearic acid. However, unlike most saturated fats, stearic acids do not raise the low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels in the bloodstream. LDL has been commonly called “the bad cholesterol,” as it is often linked to heart disease. Eating relatively large amounts of dark chocolate could actually lower LDL levels.
Red, red wine
Dark chocolate isn\’t the only guilty pleasure with health benefits. Lately, many researchers have been debating the benefits of red wine. Scientists at the Institute of Genetics and Molecular Biology studied lab mice by observing their endurance. A typical mouse would run for one kilometer before collapsing from exhaustion. However, when the mice were given reservatol, a minor component of red wine, they could run twice as far.
[wine3]But don’t rush to the Napa vineyards quite yet. The scientists, from Illkrich, France, said the mice were injected with enough reservatol to equal the human equivalent of drinking hundreds of glasses of red wine a day. But industry experts expect that consumers will ignore this key factor and stock up on wine instead.
Oddly enough, you won’t be seeing health benefits listed on the sides of wine bottles. Since the passage of prohibition laws in 1933, strict rules have been placed upon wine companies restricting them from advertising the positive effects of wine drinking.
Make it a dark one
If wine isn\’t your thing, what about a dark, smooth Guinness? Since 2003, researchers have been slowly discovering that platelets clot in the same slow manner after people consume another guilty pleasure – dark beer. Dr. John D. Folts said that dark beer is rich in flavonoids, which have intense antioxidant effects. Folts said the presence of flavonoids also explains why red wine is more heart-friendly than white wine and dark grape juice is more beneficial than white grape juice. “It’s about color: you can see the flavonoids in products on the shelf,” Folts said.
Communication senior Lucas Fowler prefers to drink dark beers for their more complex flavors. \”Nothing beats watching a Guinness settle in a pint glass and then enjoying the first sip,\” he said. He had been enjoying dark beers long before he discovered the extra bonus that some dark beers have similar tannins and antioxidants to those found in red wine. \”Most of my consumption is done in a smokey bar while eating a basket of french fries, so somehow I think the benefits are canceled out,\” Fowler said.
Moderation is key
Many nutritionists are concerned the amount needed to receive the benefits would result in the intake of a high number of calories. The end result would be obesity, which also would lead to cardiovascular problems. In addition, drinking dark beer in large amounts would obviously create intoxication. Researchers advise against having more than two alcoholic beverages per day.
A diet of strictly dark chocolate, red wine and dark beer clearly would not alleviate all health concerns. Although these kinds of research results give red wine drinkers a little bit of breathing room, consumers should adopt another common life adage: the concept of moderation. As most students have been taught, a balanced diet and moderate physical exercise is probably the best way to go in terms of staying healthy. But then again, dark chocolate tastes much better.

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