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Strange ways that chocolate keeps you healthy


March 16. 2013 8:14PM
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YOUR HEALTH: Strange ways that chocolate keeps you healthy



Are you a chocoholic? Turns out your little addiction may save your life. Here, five new ways to justify your chocolate craving.



Chocolate may help you with math: Flavonols, compounds in chocolate with antioxidant-like properties, are thought to improve circulation, including blood flow to the brain. One study asked participants to count backward in groups of three from a number between 800 and 999. After drinking hot cocoa filled with flavonols, the participants did calculations more quickly and accurately.



It fills you up: Researchers gave 16 participants 100 grams of either dark or milk chocolate and two hours later offered them pizza. Those who consumed the dark chocolate ate 15 percent fewer calories than those who had milk chocolate, and they were less interested in fatty, salty, and sugary foods.



It makes you feel better: Chocolate contains phenethylamine, which triggers the release of endorphins. This reaction is similar to the one that people experience when they fall in love. Doctors at the Mind Lab in England asked six couples to let squares of dark chocolate melt in their mouths and then kiss, all while hooked up to brain and heart monitors. Both tasks made participants' hearts pound and brains buzz, but chocolate doubled excitation rates in the brain's pleasure center during the kiss, especially in women.



It helps you relax: Reach for a Hershey bar when you're stressed? There's a biological reason for that. Studies have shown that chocolate contains the compound anandamide that activates the same brain receptors as marijuana. No wonder a bite brings on bliss.



It may help you live longer: One study found that candy consumption can help you live longer — almost a full year longer! — than those who abstain from the sweet stuff.





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