Hopes Melt of Advertising Chocolate Health Benefits

Scientific studies into the health benefits of chocolate have been rejected by the European Food Safety Authority due to insufficient evidence.

Hopes that the health benefits of some chocolate products could be advertised have been dashed by the European Food Safety Authority.

A report by the authority’s Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies has ruled that there is insufficient scientific evidence to allow food containing high levels of cocoa flavanols to be added to an official list of products that can legally claim to benefit skin condition or lower blood pressure.

Chocolate health benefits

Recent scientific research has helped promote chocolate as a wonder food. It is claimed that cocoa beans contain high levels of flavanols which act as antioxidants and could protect the body from serious illness and ageing. Dark chocolate contains nearly eight times the number of antioxidants of strawberries.

Some researchers suggested that a square of dark chocolate each day could reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Another study concluded that chocolate could help to reduce blood pressure and prevent wrinkles.

Benefits of cocoa flavanols could be “vast”

Mars, one of the world’s largest chocolate manufactures, says the benefits of cocoa flavanols”could be “vast”. The company has published more than a hundred scientific papers in this field and says there is growing evidence to link flavanols to cardiovascular health.

Research by Mars indicates that cocoa flavanols may help to:

  • Improve blood vessel function and increase blood flow
  • Reduce tendency of blood clot formation
  • Lower blood pressure in mild hypertension
  • Increase blood flow to the brain, which could have important implications for learning and memory function

European Food Safety Authority

But the European food safety watchdog is not yet convinced. It concluded that the research it was presented, linking cocoa flavanols with lower blood pressure, was “inconsistent” and ruled that the effect of higher doses of flavanols did not confirm the results of studies with lower doses.

The panel also rejected a study into whether cocoa flavanols could prevent skin damage by the “protection of lipids from oxidative damage”. It said that although significant improvements were reported after one dose of cocoa flavanols the effect was not confirmed by daily consumption for three to six weeks.

The findings have been sent to the European Commission. The panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies is still considering the results of other scientific studies into the alleged health benefits of chocolate.

Whatever the outcome nutritionists are warning that if there are any health benefits of eating chocolate they are likely to be outweighed by the disadvantages as chocolate is high in both sugar and fat.

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