Chocolate, nicknamed “the food of the gods,” has been around for 2000 years and helps our aging mind and bodies stave off some of the consequences of growing older. Research indicates that:

  • A square of dark chocolate two or three times a week reduced inflammatory C-reactive protein by 17%. (Journal of Nutrition)
  • A small piece of dark chocolate/day (about 30 calories) can lower both systolic and diastolic blood pressure by several points. Participants in this study were 56 – 73. (Journal of the American Medical Association)
  • One or two squares of dark chocolate almost halved the risk of heart attack in some men and women (study participants ranged from 21 – 80). (Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine)
  • Older adults (between 70 and 74) who ate chocolate performed better on cognitive tests that those who do not eat chocolate. (Journal of Nutrition)
  • A compound called epicatechin in dark chocolate can help protect the brain from having a stroke and reduce the damage from a stroke. (Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow & Metabolism)
  • Increase levels of HDL (“good” cholesterol) and lower levels of “bad” (LDL) cholesterol. (Journal of Nutrition)

Dark chocolate works because it contains substances that lengthen blood clotting time, relax blood vessels, increase blood flow, inhibit an enzyme that raises blood pressure, activate genes in the liver that produce good cholesterol and dampen the production of “bad” cholesterol, and stimulate pathways in the brain that protect nerve damage. Best kind of dark chocolate? One with 70% or more cocoa content, and a minimum of other ingredients. How much? A square or two a day. In the immortal words of Jackie Gleason, “How sweet it is”!

For the “nectar of the gods,” or wine, the results are a bit more mixed, with plenty of discussions over the merits of imbibing – or not. Outcomes of studies are based upon “moderate” consumption of wine, defined as no more than one drink per day for women, and two drinks per day for men. A drink is defined as five ounces of wine.

The Good (assuming wine isn’t contraindicated because of medications, disease – including alcoholism – or for other reasons):

  • Improves bone density
  • Improves heart health
  • Lowers blood sugar
  • Reduces risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia
  • Improves body’s sensitivity to insulin
  • Improves social interactions
  • Improves appetite (this could be good or bad, depending)

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