"Chocolate is Not Actually Good For You."
Chocoholics love to cite the healthful properties of the candy, and the candy industry is happy to arm them with statistics and research to support the claim. On Hershey's website, for example, the company says chocolate "may contribute to improved cardiovascular health," citing the antioxidant properties of cocoa and a connection between antioxidants and a reduced risk of heart disease and cancer, among other illnesses. A separate study on the National Confectioners Association website claims that children and teens who eat candy are less overweight or obese than their peers who don't.
Not so fast, warn health care experts. While chocolate does have antioxidants, which protect cells against certain kind of damage, and the occasional indulgence is satisfying, chocolate treats "are not fruits and vegetables," says Bonnie Liebman, nutrition director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer advocacy organization. So far, she says, there is no definitive evidence that antioxidants have any positive effect on your health, and "there's no health authority that recommends eating more chocolate." And outweighing any potential benefits, experts say, are the detrimental effects of fat, sugar and calories. With two out of three adults and half of children either overweight or obese, "We do not need a license to eat more chocolate," says Ross A. Hammond, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, who estimates that the annual costs from obesity may run to $215 billion a year.
The candy industry is aware of the need to eat healthy, says Smith of the National Confectioners Association. "Candy is supposed to be one of life's little pleasures." Hershey's declined to comment on the health claims made on its web site.