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The Chemistry of Chocolate: It’s Good For You!

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A fitting story in the Healthwatch 16 Report this Valentines Day. Go ahead and hit those chocolates hard. Scientifically, at least, it'll do your body good! That's according to a professor at the University of Scranton.

"I love my job. It's the sweetest job in town," says Nancy Fayocavitz, store manager at Gertrude Hawk Chocolates in Throop. Valentines Day is a very busy time at the store, and Fayocavitz says dark chocolate is becoming a popular pick.

"A lot of people are liking our dark chocolate, the 70% cocoa. Eating a few ounces a day is good for your heart, good for your blood pressure, I guess," Fayocavitz said.

She's right, according to Dr. Joe Vinson, a professor at the University of Scranton who has spent years studying the chemical properties of various foods, chocolate in particular. It's full of antioxidants, compounds that make your heart not have to work as hard as usual, by lowering blood pressure and making your arteries a little more flexible. Because it's so high in pure cocoa, dark chocolate is most beneficial.

"More is better! That's what the epidemiologists would say. The more chocolate you eat, the lower your risk. But you reach a point where the calories will get in your way," said Dr. Vinson.

Chocolate is high in calories and fat, both of which can both be detrimental to a healthy diet. But strictly chemically speaking, Dr. Vinson says a recent study on the sweet treat in hamsters showed that chocolate can actually slow arterial deterioration. He says a few squares a day isn't just "not bad" for you, it can improve your cardiac health. And that's perhaps the nicest gift you can give to someone- or yourself- on Valentines Day.

"Nowadays I don't feel guilty about eating chocolate. Other than the calories, there's nothing negative about eating chocolate."

Dr. Vinson plans to present a study next month to other scientists and medical doctors about his latest chemical and biochemical studies on chocolate. He says his work is most recognized this time of year.