Have you ever heard the saying, “A glass of wine and a piece of dark chocolate a day keeps the doctor away?”
Probably not. Yet, every day, patients see articles about a new study proclaiming the health benefits of wine and chocolate. Can wine and chocolate actually be good for you?
We decided to find out by looking behind a few headlines.
Headline: Lose Weight by Eating Chocolate
Who wouldn’t love for this to be true? By 2013, at least three studies reported that regularly eating chocolate resulted in weight loss.
Truth: Unsound research methods lead to unreliable results.
Researchers applying much more aggressive standards found that habitual chocolate consumption led to weight gain, not loss. The exception: People who regularly ate chocolate but had a preexisting serious illness did lose weight. (Heart 2018)
Headline: Chocolate Can Prevent Heart Disease
Several studies have credited compounds in chocolate called flavanols with protecting us against dementia, heart disease and many other health conditions.
Truth: Too few random studies, too many types of chocolate to draw this conclusion.
Harvard Medical School says these results cannot be applied to the general population. They’re doing their own study, but say that any health benefits they may find won’t outweigh chocolate’s fat, sugar and calories. (The Harvard Gazette 2017)
Headline: Higher Chocolate Intake Lowers Risk of Future Cardiovascular Events
In 2015, researchers found that eating more chocolate could reduce the risk of future heart health issues.
Truth: Other things might explain the lowered risk.
The researchers concluded with a number of caveats we must consider when interpreting their results, including that their subjects’ diets overall “may be of relevance.”
Headline: The World Health Organization Says Wine Is Good For Health
The author of Perfect Drinking and its Enemies says not drinking wine is far unhealthier than drinking it. In fact, he believes we should down a bottle a day.
Truth: The World Health Organization said no such thing.
The headline should say “a former WHO expert,” and he’s exaggerating a study that found low doses of alcohol increased the “waste clearance pathway capability” in the central nervous system of mice. (Scientific Report 2018)
Headline: If You’re Going to Drink, Wine is Best
The idea that alcohol is good for you goes back a thousand years. Physicians used to prescribe an alcohol-morphine combo to soothe teething babies! Casting wine as a healthy alternative to other drinks is more recent, though these studies are increasingly being called into question.
Truth: Wine is Alcohol. Period.
Although the study Wine and Cardiovascular Health found that moderate drinking may reduce the risk of ischemic heart disease, it found no proof that wine does a better job of this than other alcoholic beverages. (American Heart Association 2017)
Headline: A Glass of Wine a Day While Pregnant ‘Will Not Harm Your Baby’
One study tracked the wine consumption of women while pregnant and for years after they gave birth. A decade later, they tested the children’s ability to balance and concluded that drinking wine during pregnancy promotes the child’s development.
Truth: Ten years allows for innumerable other influences on a child’s development.
The study’s creator acknowledged that the mother’s social position (which was reflected by the wine consumption) was more likely to be a factor in better balance.
So, the next time your friend says she’ll bring wine and chocolate to dinner “because they’re healthy,” maybe ask her to get a veggie tray and sparkling water instead.
At the Cardiovascular Care Center of Johnson Memorial Hospital, the attention you need is right around the corner. In partnership with IU Health Physicians Cardiology, we offer diagnostic and interventional cardiac services to identify and reverse the effects of heart disease, provide a variety of treatments of peripheral vascular disease, and have heart pacemaker services for cardiac arrhythmias.