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Is chocolate good for you?

BMJ 2004; 329 doi: (Published 01 September 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;329:0409315
  1. Norzeihan Jan Bappu, fourth year medical student1,
  2. Alan Bagnall, specialist registrar in cardiology2
  1. 1University of Edinburgh
  2. 2New Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh

Norzeihan Jan Bappu and Alan Bagnall have some good news

Pub Medic:Impress your mates at the pub with your startling repertoire of esoteric medical knowledge.

The earliest texts suggest that cocoa merely helped make less palatable medicines go down.1 Soon, however, cocoa was regarded as an active ingredient in cures for many illnesses. Diluted into a drink, cocoa was given to people with fevers, liver disease, and kidney disorders. Doctors prescribed ground beans mixed with resin to cure dysentery. A cocoa drink was reputed to foster needed weight gain--especially if bulked out with ground maize. Hot chocolate was even prescribed as a laxative and aid to digestion. By the early 1600s, European researchers were reporting indications that chocolate may affect moods. Grivetti found a 1631 treatise by the Spanish doctor Antoino Comenero de Ledesma, for instance, that said chocolate makes people amiable and "incited consumers to... lovemaking."

It was reported that, as a love potion, drinking chocolate helped women conceive. If hot cocoa was drunk during pregnancy it helped smooth labour and delivery. Three decades later, Henry Stubb published a monograph that claimed a drink made by mixing chocolate and vanilla would strengthen the brain and womb. Mixed with Jamaican pepper, chocolate was supposed to stimulate menstrual flow. Combined with resin, it was reputed to boost production of breast milk. The oils from cocoa beans were even applied to help heal a nursing mother's cracked nipples. Few conditions are not improved by chocolate, according …

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