Everyone wants chocolate to be healthy. This is a universal truth. We sit and stare at the rich blocks of a bar of Cadbury’s and want nothing more than to sink our teeth into its sumptuous curves. But we’ve all heard the message, seen the writing on the wall: chocolate is a calorie-heavy treat.
Chocolate is bad for you.
But what if it wasn’t? What if we could chow down on that most delightful of snacks without fear of the corresponding choco-guilt? And what if this extended to the most delightful of beverages, red wine?
This is the promise that headlines the world over have been selling. It happens at least once a year — we find a study that tells us these things are good for us, and despite our misgivings we happily sign up to the new truth.
Because, deep down, we want chocolate to be good for us. Red wine, too. It’s not. We just wish it was.
You may’ve seen the headlines: “A chemical found in red wine and dark chocolate has been found to make old cells young again”, “ Dark chocolate may rejuvenate old cells in the human body: Study”, and the endlessly-optimistic “New study says red wine and chocolate is the secret to youth” from AOL.com, which is odd because I always thought AOL had crashed into the endless void years’ ago.
These articles are all happily discussing a new breathtaking discovery: the chemical resveratrol.
Or they would be, if resveratrol hadn’t been researched thoroughly for over 3 decades.
If you’ve ever read a story or seen a news headline about red wine and chocolate being good for you, chances are they have been talking about a resveratrol study. It is a naturally-occurring chemical that is found in high concentrations in these delightful foods, as well as in the skin of blueberries and some other sources.
This time around was no different. All of these headlines are referencing the same new study, which is actually slightly odd because it was published weeks ago but only recently hyped.
Right at the outset I’m going to say: this study is completely worthless as an indication of how red wine or chocolate is going to affect your body. Totally useless.
What the researchers basically did was create an artificial substance they called a “resveralogue”, which is a chemical similar in structure and action to resveratrol, and squirt it on some cells in petri dishes. So a) this is not the substance you find in red wine or chocolate, and b) they didn’t test anything on people, it was cells in petri dishes.
The most cursory glance at the study would’ve revealed that this research has nothing whatsoever to do with red wine or chocolate, both of which we know are bad for you. Any journalist who’d taken a look at the study would’ve immediately known that it was incredibly preliminary research.
This is not hard.
You can’t heap all the blame on the media. The lead researcher is quoted as saying “This is a first step in trying to make people live normal lifespans, but with health for their entire life”. It sounds all rosy and lovely, except the evidence for resveratrol use in people is nonexistant. When we’ve actually looked at giving people supplements of this chemical, we’ve found that it doesn’t do all that much.
Maybe in 30 years’ time, there will be a drug produced from this research. But the current state is enormous speculation based on lab-bench data.
Ultimately, this isn’t a new story. I wrote something similar about resveratrol almost a year ago to date. We are always going to want rosy tales about how wine and chocolate are good for us, because it would be so lovely if they were, wouldn’t it?
We will always be looking for a reason to eat chocolate. It is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Sadly, it will also clog your arteries and rot your teeth.
Eat in moderation. Drink in moderation. There is no reason to believe that red wine or chocolate are anything other than enjoyable vices.
And next time a story breaks about how they might save your life?
Don’t believe the hype.
It’s probably nonsense anyway.