Chocolate isn’t just delicious (although it definitely is); according to some studies out there, it’s good for your health, too. But as you’ve probably guessed, the research supporting that idea isn’t exactly objective: It was commissioned by chocolate makers
“Keep in mind that too much of anything is not really good,” a chocolate historian (yes, that is an actual thing) at Yale University told Vox. “If you’re hooked on chocolate, you’re hooked on sugar.”
Marion Nestle, a nutrition researcher who is not related to the food conglomerate that also makes chocolate products, told Vox that chocolate companies “made a conscious decision to invest in science to transform the image of their product from a treat to a health food.”
Nestle has cataloged chocolate research funded by snack companies, noting that Mars even markets a “cocoa flavonol” dietary supplement for heart health, even though the product was originally developed as a snack. Why? Supplement-makers can make broader, if more vague, claims about what their products do than if the same product were sold as a food or a drug.
Vox’s review of chcoolate studies funded by Mars found that 98% of what was published had positive results. It’s not necessarily that researchers deliberately skewed their projects, or that Mars prevented negative studies from being published. Mars may have only approached researchers whose work was already choco-friendly, and simply funded them to perform more of it.
We’re sorry to tell you that while specific compounds in chocolate are linked to improved health, these effects are less pronounced in studies that aren’t funded by the candy industry, and in any case, chocolate itself is not good for your health. Research on flavonols is promising, but those compounds are mostly processed out of the chocolate that we snack on.
The thing is, chocolate isn’t the only source of the plant-based chemicals, flavonols, that can have a positive effect on our health. You can also get these substances by drinking tea or eating, say, apples, cranberries, kale, onions, or pears. Bonus: Apples and pears contain sugar naturally, but don’t come with huge doses of added sugar and fat like even dark chocolate does.