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Wine and Chocolate - A Healthy Combination
Copyright 2002 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved. Originally printed February 11, 2002. For more information go to

In a world where it sometimes seems that anything that tastes good can't be good for you, it's reassuring to learn that scientists have found apparent health benefits not only in wine but chocolate.

A box of chocolates...a glass of red wine...what could be a more appropriate topic as Valentine's Day draws near?

Scientists at the University of California at Davis have been studying the potential health benefits of wine for years, and their focus on dietary antioxidants - chemicals like flavonoids and phenolics that seem to enhance favorable blood chemistry - has led them to take a closer look at chocolate.

"We not only have observed an increase in antioxidant capacity after chocolate consumption, but also modulation of certain compounds which affect blood vessels and now, platelet function," the university's Prof. Carl Keen told the annual meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science last year.

Those findings were based on blood tests drawn from volunteers after they ate measured doses of chocolate; earlier research based on laboratory studies at Davis had shown that a 1.5-ounce (45-gram) piece of milk chocolate contained nearly as much phenolic flavonoids as a 5-ounce glass of red wine.

Flavonoids, which are also found in some fruit juices and green tea, are considered desirable because they attacking the "free radicals" that damage tissue cells; they appear to deter bacteria and perhaps even viruses that can cause inflammation and allergic reactions in the body.

While scientists stop short of prescribing chocolate as a kind of tasty medicine (and the British Heart Foundation, responding to the Davis studies, bashed any such claim as "reckless"), it seems beyond dispute that it does have an antioxidant effect, as does red wine.

Can't hurt...might help. I prescribe a chocolate and a bit of wine as a happy and perhaps even healthy way to toast your Valentine.


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