Got a sweet tooth? Be careful what you eat or drink to sate it. Recent health research has good news for chocolate lovers and bad news for soda drinkers.
A collaborative observational study between the University of Minnesota and the University of Singapore examined 60,000 Chinese Singaporeans, all of them middle-aged or older. Over 14 years, scientists examined the participants’ intake of juice and soda and charted development of pancreatic cancer in those subjects. People who drank more than two sodas a week on average were 87% more likely to develop a pancreatic tumor than those who didn’t consume any. There was no increased risk for juice drinkers; researchers speculate that this is due to the effect that sugared sodas have on glucose and insulin levels, which don’t spike as much from natural sugars found in fruit juices.
This was the first time an Asian population was examined in observational studies of such a correlation, but researchers believe the results can be extrapolated to Western populations, particularly the United States. Singapore and the U.S. both consume relatively large amounts of fast food and refined sugars. Doctors do caution, though, that this doesn’t establish any clear causal link between sodas and pancreatic cancer, and may simply be a further illustration of the correlation between development of pancreatic cancer and the incidence rates of diabetes and obesity.
Meanwhile, the Stroke Research Center at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, Canada has found that eating chocolate – dark chocolate in particular – may reduce your risk of stroke. The researchers’ final findings have not yet been published, but they are slated to deliver their review at a Canadian neurology conference in April. The scientists didn’t delve much into their findings comparing intake effects of white chocolate, milk chocolate, and dark chocolate, but did mention that dark chocolate seemed most beneficial. The review estimates that stroke rate was 22% lower for people who ate chocolate once a week; in those who ate 50 grams or more weekly, stroke rate was as much as 46% lower. The researchers admit that a limitation of bias may be at work in these findings. People who ate larger amounts of chocolates could just be more affluent and wealthy, with better access to medical care and more opportunities to be physically active.
The noted benefits may be the result of flavonoid antioxidants in chocolate, which is found in higher concentrations in dark chocolate than milk chocolate. However, chocolate is also a food that is high in saturated fat and bad cholesterol. While none of the doctors are recommending we think of chocolate as a health food, moderate intake certainly doesn’t seem to be bad for you. If all it takes is one weekly serving to reduce your risk of stroke, that’s a sweet change that anyone’s calorie allotment can make room for – just lay off the sodas for a while, and have a Special Dark instead. Your body may even thank you for the indulgence in the long run.