Does Chocolate Just Taste Good? Or Can Chocolate Smooth Your Wrinkles For Beautiful Skin?
If you're not a chocolate lover then I don't know what planet you're from (and I hardly know what to say to you). Come on, you are, I know you are! Everybody loves chocolate. But for most of us it remains a guilty – maybe the guiltiest – of pleasures. But... does it really need to be? Numerous newspaper stories (okay, usually in the fluffy health columns) of recent years have triumphed and trumpeted about the alleged health benefits of the cocoa bean – antioxidants yadayada, monounsaturated fat blahblahblah. Is there any truth to the rumour that chocolate might just be good for you after all? And if so, does that include curing wrinkles and keeping you youthful and gorgeous forever (or at least for at long long time?)
Certainly it would be nice to think that for once, a bit of indulgence, rather than boring old asceticism, could be the thing that promotes health and beauty for us ladies (and maybe the guys too). But lo, maybe it can! A 2006 study by Heinrich et al comes to the conclusion, after putting two groups of subjects to the tough task of swigging chocolate flavoured water for a few weeks, that cocoa - or the magical substances – catechins, epicatechins (both flavanols) - contained therein – can indeed beautify and smooth the complexion. Or, as they might rather less magically put it, the catechins in cocoa are demonstrated to enhance and improve various parameters of skin health and appearance..
The study compares two groups in order to provide an appropriate control: one consuming water with low-quality and low-concentration cocoa powder added, one with a high grade powder. The two groups are then compared for results for skin quality after a period of twelve weeks. Whaddya know, the high-grade cocoa group comes out tops for skin gorgeousness, compared to the low-quality cocoa!
What does this prove? That chocolate is a health food and we should all eat our weight in it on a daily basis? Well, perhaps not! But given the choice between tiny pots of criminally expensive night cream/getting sliced and diced by a plastic surgeon, or rather frequently scoffing small, discreet bars of high-quality high cocoa solids chocolate... it's not a tough choice, now is it?
I don't think the purveyors of the study are suggesting that a diet consisting solely of candy bars is a good idea for any of us. Got to get those five a day and some protein and complex carbohydrate in there somewhere! But considering that another study by Neukam et al  also suggests that cocoa can improve skin circulation and oxygenation, I'm pretty much taking that as a licence to go crazy in the confectioners and get myself some luxury Belgian chocolates to gorge on this weekend! Hey, my skin deserves it!
 Heinrich, U., Neukam, K., Tronnier, H., Sies, H., Stahl, W. 'Long-Term Ingestion of High Flavanol Cocoa Provides Photoprotection against UV-Induced Erythema and Improves Skin Condition in Women'. June 2006. The Journal of Nutrition. 136:6, pp. 1565.
 Neukam, K., Stahl, W., Tronnier, H., Sies, H., Heinrich, U. 'Consumption of flavanol-rich cocoa acutely increases microcirculation in human skin '. 11/12/2006. 46:1, pp. 53-56.