Why There’s Always A New Study About Chocolate

Why There’s Always A New Study About Chocolate

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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Some great reporting by Vox explains where that impression comes from: decades of research funded by Mars. (Nestlé and the Chocolate Manufacturers Association of America have done their part, too.)

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.