Chocolate, the New Health Food

When we were growing up, our mothers told us to eat certain foods because they were good for us. Milk made our bones strong, spinach gave us muscles, liver was good for our blood, and Wonder Bread built strong bodies 12 ways, which always confused me because, being the three-dimensional creatures we are, I could understand it helping us grow taller, wider, and thicker, but couldn't figure out what the other nine ways were. I still can't, and I passed high school physics. Barely, but I passed.

The reason our mothers told us those things was to get us to eat foods we wouldn't otherwise have put within three feet of our mouths. Unless, of course, your mouth was near the trash can, toilet, or that plant in the dining room which mysteriously kept dying. How else could she have gotten us to choke down tuna casserole other than by telling us fish was brain food, which turns out to be correct as long as you don't mind a bit of mercury lurking in your gray matter. But along with jeans styles, platform shoes, and Cooper-Mins, things have changed. Okay, bad examples. At least now we're being told there are health benefits for foods we actually like. You know, like chocolate.

For years the word was that chocolate was bad for us, causing acne, cavities, tight pants and sagging floor joists. Now scientists at the University of Cologne (motto: "Is that Old Spice or did you use the sewer to get to class?") are claiming that eating dark chocolate can lower your blood pressure. It's true. Apparently it has lots of polyphenol, which is the same substance that makes red wine good for you. Now if they can only figure out a way for us to ingest it that won't make us drunk, fat or hung over in the morning we could all have blood pressure that's lower than Gray Davis' popularity rating, if you can imagine such a thing.

This isn't chocolate's only health benefit. Aside from being nature's Midol, a study performed a few years back at Harvard University (motto: "Like Stanford with snow") showed that men who ate three chocolate bars a month lived nearly a year longer than those who didn't. And enjoyed that year a hell of a lot more. But it's not necessary to ingest chocolate to get the benefits -- you can smear it all over yourself. Or for increased benefits, get someone else to smear it on you. Hopefully for free.

You guessed it, people around the country are paying good money to have their bodies coated with chocolate, and they don't have to advertise in the Wild Life personal ads to do it. All you have to do is find a salon which offers chocolate massages, chocolate facials, and a chocolate body rub, which many of them do these days. They claim chocolate's built-in antioxidants help protect the skin from free radicals, which are a real problem since Osama bin Laden and his cohorts are still on the loose. That's not all, they also say chocolate protects the skin from pollution, sun damage, and alcohol consumption caused by drinking too much red wine in the hopes of lowering your blood pressure. And you thought chocolate just tasted good.

You can get many of these same benefits if you do this at home. Well, as long as your partner doesn't lick the chocolate off before it can do its thing, though that certainly has its own set of benefits. You can buy chocolate soap, chocolate massage oil, chocolate lip balm, and even Celluli-Choc, a chocolate-based skin cream the manufacturer claims will get rid of the cellulite you got from eating chocolate when you should have been applying it.

But that's not all. Chocolate has another benefit -- it contains caffeine. While there's not enough to keep you awake when you need to cram for that test, finish your taxes, or can't bear the idea of missing any of the all-night Cop Rock marathon on TV, it might stop you from getting cancer. A study done at Rutgers University (motto: "Smells worse than Cologne but has less snow than Harvard") found that a lotion which contained caffeine kept people's feet from falling asleep. Just kidding. Actually they found that the mice which used it had fewer incidences of skin cancer. Yes, even the ones who held silly silver reflectors under their chins while basking in the sun.

The problem is, it turns out that caffeine isn't the only thing that protects us from skin cancer, so do wrinkles. A study at the University of Manchester in England (motto: "What do we know? We haven't seen the sun in three years.") found that people with heavily wrinkled faces were 90% less likely to develop skin cancer. Thus, if wrinkles protect against cancer, and chocolate prevents wrinkles, then maybe that chocolate facial really isn't such a good idea. On the other hand, if the caffeine in chocolate cuts the risk of skin cancer, with luck it balances things out. Life was so much simpler when all we did was eat the stuff.

More Mad Dog can be found online at: www.maddogproductions.com. His compilation of humorous travel columns, "If It's Such a Small World Then Why Have I Been Sitting on This Airplane For Twelve Hours?" is available from Xlibris Corporation. Email: md@maddogproductions.com.

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