Win Their Heart and Keep It Healthy, Too


MACON – With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, a romantic’s thoughts turn to Cupid, flowers and chocolate. But did you know that the gift of chocolate can also be the gift of good health? Dr. Brian Tobin, chair of basic medical sciences and professor of nutrition, biochemistry and pediatrics at Mercer University School of Medicine, says that there are health benefits to certain chocolates, and by choosing wisely, Casanova consumers can reap those benefits for their sweeties.

“Chocolate companies occasionally announce new lines of ‘healthy chocolates,’ but consumers should be cautiously optimistic,” says Tobin, who has served as a test subject in several chocolate studies. “There is no substitute for a good piece of quality dark chocolate.”

According to Tobin, chocolate has the following health benefits:

Ø       Cocoa is the highest natural source of magnesium, which is beneficial for the cardiovascular system and hypertension. Magnesium deficiency is also linked to health problems such as diabetes, joint problems and pre-menstrual syndrome.

Ø       Nutrients, such as iron, calcium and potassium – in addition to vitamins A, B1, C, D and E – are contained in trace elements in chocolate.

Ø       High-quality plain chocolate contains a fat that, although a saturated fat, can be considered cholesterol free as it does not clog arteries or contribute to high cholesterol levels.

Tobin says that the healthiest chocolate is plain dark chocolate products that contain 70 percent or more cocoa solids. These chocolates allow chocolate-lovers to satisfy their craving without consuming too much sugar, saturated fat or hydrogenated vegetable oil.

“If you prefer milk or white chocolate, you should choose products with a minimum of 30 percent chocolate solids or chocolate butter,” he notes. “Consumers go wrong when they select chocolates low in chocolate solids. The worst chocolates health-wise are those with high-sugar filled centers, like caramel, praline and fondant.”

Tobin received his B.S. and Ph.D. from Pennsylvania State University, and served as a postdoctoral fellow pursuing endocrinology and metabolism research in the Muttart Diabetes Research Training Centre and in the departments of medicine and surgery at the University of Alberta School of Medicine in Edmonton, Canada.

About Mercer University and the School of Medicine:

Mercer University’s School of Medicine was established in 1982 to educate physicians and health professionals to meet the primary care and health care needs of rural and medically underserved areas of Georgia. The School only accepts Georgia residents into its medical degree program. Students entering Mercer University School of Medicine will be graduated from a school that utilizes a problem-based medical education program that provides early patient care experiences. Such an academic environment fosters the early development of clinical problem-solving and instills in each student an awareness of the place of the basic medical sciences in medical practice. The School has two teaching hospitals: Medical Center of Central Georgia in Macon and Memorial Health University Medical Center in Savannah.

Founded in 1833, Mercer University has campuses in Macon and Atlanta as well as three regional academic centers. With 10 schools and colleges, the University offers programs in liberal arts, business, engineering, education, medicine, nursing, pharmacy, law and theology. For 16 consecutive years, U.S. News & World Report has named Mercer University as one of the leading universities in the South.