Do you have a vague notion of chocolate, perhaps dark chocolate, as being good for you? It’s good for your heart health, or something. On some level you know that a candy is not actually a health food, but it seems like there’s always a headline saying it is.
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Even if the science is totally sound, the pattern of research funding can end up misleading us. Here are a few ways that happens:
- If more research money is available for chocolate studies than for other areas of research, more scientists will do studies on chocolate.
- Even if the chocolate companies don’t edit the results, they can still choose to award funding to scientists whose previous work has made chocolate look good.
- They can offer funding for questions they want answered. For example, they will award funding to study the benefits of chocolate, but little to none for studying harms.
- They will definitely send out a press release when the study is published.
Most of the studies are not groundbreaking or even all that practical; the “chocolate” studies generally involve feeding mice or people a supplement made from cocoa beans, which you would definitely not eat for fun.
The Vox report points out that a “heart healthy” dose of flavanols would require you to eat over a kilo of milk chocolate. Dark chocolate is more concentrated, but you’d still need a 750-calorie portion. Not exactly something you could work into a healthy diet every day.