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Have a hot cocoa and go to bed

Posted by Richard on December 6, 2006

This is another installment in my occasional series of posts about things that are good for you without being boring, unpleasant, or painful (see here, here, here, and here). This time, I have two pieces of advice: eat more chocolate and sleep more.

The first recommendation comes from a Johns Hopkins study. I’ve expressed skepticism about Johns Hopkins data in the past (here and here), but I doubt that there’s any political bias in this study. 🙂

More than 1200 people participated in the study of aspirin’s effects on blood platelets. The finding was the serendipitous result of some study participants’ failure to comply with instructions. They admitted to being "chocoholics" who continued to indulge in their vice even though told not to. Rather than discard their data, researchers compared non-aspirin-taking chocolate-eaters’ results with those from the compliant aspirin-takers, and were surprised. The chocolate-eaters had slower clotting times and less platelet activity byproducts in their urine than the aspirin-takers. The potential health benefit of their modest chocolate consumption is significant (emphasis added):

Their “offense,” say researchers at Johns Hopkins led to what is believed to be the first biochemical analysis to explain why just a few squares of chocolate a day can almost halve the risk of heart attack death in some men and women by decreasing the tendency of platelets to clot in narrow blood vessels.

“What these chocolate ‘offenders’ taught us is that the chemical in cocoa beans has a biochemical effect similar to aspirin in reducing platelet clumping, which can be fatal if a clot forms and blocks a blood vessel, causing a heart attack,” says Diane Becker, M.P.H., Sc.D., a professor at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Bloomberg School of Public Health.

“Eating a little bit of chocolate or having a drink of hot cocoa as part of a regular diet is probably good for personal health, so long as people don’t eat too much of it, and too much of the kind with lots of butter and sugar,” says Becker.

My second recommendation is based on recent findings based on analysis of data from the long-running Nurses’ Health Study:

Middle-aged women may be able to sleep their way to a trimmer body, new study findings suggest.

In a study that followed more than 68,000 U.S. women for 16 years, researchers found that those who caught more zzz’s each night tended to put on less weight during middle-age.

What’s more, women who typically clocked 5 hours of sleep were one third more likely than those who slept for 7 hours to have a substantial weight gain — 33 pounds or more — during the study period.

The findings, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology and presented earlier this year at a medical conference, add to evidence that sleep habits affect a person’s weight.

Although the reasons aren’t clear, some research suggests that sleep deprivation alters hormones involved in appetite control and metabolism.

It’s also possible that people who sleep fewer hours either eat more or, because of fatigue, exercise less often.

Actually, the AJE article said that the results "were not affected by adjustment for physical activity or dietary consumption." Whatever the reason, more sleep seems to be good for middle-aged women, and may help offset the caloric impact of eating those healthy doses of chocolate.

But I don’t think there’s any scientific evidence in support of this strategy.

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One Response to “Have a hot cocoa and go to bed”

  1. Jan said

    I feel like this post was written just for me!

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