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“Focus on Health”

by The Social Diary Health Columnist Ruth S. Jacobowitz
Column #2, January 5th, 2006

Valentine’s Day is almost upon us. This is the day when we greet our true love with chocolates in a shiny red heart-shaped box tied with gold ribbon. Although we may deprive ourselves and our loved ones of too much sugar the rest of the year, Valentine’s Day is different.

Over the years many myths have wrapped themselves around sweets as tightly as a tootsie roll wrapper. Before we set out to find that most luxurious box of candy, let’s consider what we think we know about sugar and chocolate.

1. Too much sugar causes diabetes.

That one is only true in a round about kind of way. A spokesman for the American Dietetic Association explains that sugar can make you fat and being fat can make you susceptible to diabetes. Excess sugar intake can lead to excess calorie intake and obesity is a very strong risk factor for Type 2 diabetes. Speaking of sugar leads us right to chocolate. Dark chocolate I hope. Now chocolate has a lot of myths connected to it.

2. Acne is caused by chocolate.

Doctors tell us acne is not caused by any foods you eat; usually hormones are to blame. Although acne diets prohibiting chocolates and other goodies were popular years ago, dermatologists these days no longer recommend acne diets.

Treatments today focus on keeping the pores open and controlling oil production and bacteria in the skin. In fact, chocolate is enjoying a really good rap---we’re now told it lowers high blood pressure and has other benefits.

3. A confectionary like chocolate is a major cause of tooth decay.

No way. Tooth decay is largely the result of poor dental hygiene, Oral cavities are caused by any foods containing fermentable carbohydrates that are left on the teeth for too long. In fact, there are ingredients in chocolate products that may actually retard the decaying process.

4. Chocolate is high in caffeine.

Not true. The amount of caffeine in a piece of chocolate candy is significantly lower than the caffeine in a cup of coffee, tea or cola drinks. Let’s look at that for a moment. The amount of caffeine in a cup of instant coffee is between 40 and 108 milligrams while a one ounce piece of chocolate contains only 6 milligrams of caffeine. While we’re looking at caffeine, let’s also consider cholesterol.

5. There is a high level of cholesterol in chocolate.

Again, not true. A chocolate bar is low in cholesterol. The American Heart Association recommends that daily cholesterol intake stay under 300 milligrams. A 1.65 ounce chocolate bar contains only 12 milligrams so a chocolate bar is actually low in cholesterol. Balance that against, for example, one ounce of cheddar cheese which contains 30 milligrams of cholesterol –Let’s explore the goodness in chocolate even more.

6. Chocolate is high in sodium.

Wrong again! Information from the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences informs us that the recommended daily allowance of sodium 1,100 to 3,300 milligrams daily. A 1.5 ounce bar of milk chocolate bar contains 41 milligrams, but the same size bar of dark chocolate contains only 5 milligrams of sodium. A sodium bargain! but A 1.5 ounce of iced devil’s food cake has 241 milligrams of sodium. And while we’re looking at caffeine and sodium, we might as well look at fat. You’ve got to figure that

7. A 1/5 ounce bar of chocolate contains lots of fat.

Wrong again and again. Nutritionists suggest that calories from fat account for no more than 30 percent of our daily caloric intake. That same 1.5 ounce of chocolate contains only 13 grams of fat if it’s milk chocolate and just 12 if its dark chocolate.

So go on and splurge on a decadent-looking box of chocolates and present it to your loved one on February 14th.

* Ruth S. Jacobowitz is an award-winning medical writer, dynamic lecturer, columnist and former vice-president of a teaching hospital in Cleveland, Ohio. The Estrogen Answer Book, is her fifth women’s midlife health book. She is also author of 150 Most-Asked Questions About Menopause; 150 Most-Asked Questions About Osteoporosis; and 150 Most-Asked Questions About Midlife Sex, Love, and Intimacy.

Her first novel, Final Acts, a medical/legal thriller was published in September, 2004.

Ruth’s engaging and informative lectures have taken her all over the world. She educates men and women about how they age and empowers them to take charge of their own health. Her books are published in 14 languages. She has been on 48 Hours, Today, CBS This Morning, Donahue, Leeza, America’s Talking, Food Television Network, People are Talking as well as on local television news and talk programs and in the New York Times, Washington Post, Vanity Fair, Newsweek, and on National Public Radio.

Visit Ruth at her website www.ruthjacobowitz.com .

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