When it comes to matters relating to food—and the mass consumption of said food—when there is a will, there is most certainly a way. That's especially the case if we're talking about devouring large amounts of glorious chocolate under the guise of contributing to one's own good health. In the words of Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa, "There's no metaphysics on earth like chocolates."
It's called the COSMOS trial and it may be one of the most satisfying scientific studies in years. The results will tell us whether eating chocolate will keep us alive longer and it may be the impetus for the creation of a chocolate pill. Although, if you're anything like us, you'd probably rather stick with the OG thing.
COSMOS stands for "Cocoa Supplement and Multivitamin Outcomes Study" and it will look at whether the consumption of cocoa extract benefits the health of older people. The Women's Health Initiative is now recruiting volunteers—men over the aged 60 and older and women aged 65 and older—who will be given cocoa extract capsules or a placebo. In four years, the scientists will know whether cocoa flavanols actually reduce the risk of heart attack, strokes, cognitive decline, and other conditions over time. Flavanols are the bioactive compounds found in cocoa.
Previous studies have provided what the researchers call "hints over the years that cocoa might have health benefits." They explain that clinical trials in the past have shown that cocoa extracts can be beneficial as far as cholesterol, blood pressure, and vascular health goes. But no study has shown whether all of this actually amounts to fewer heart attacks and strokes.
The researchers, who are from Harvard and the WHI Coordinating Center at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, are focusing on developing a multivitamin that would contain flavanols—so no actual eating of chocolate would be involved. It should be noted, however, that partial funding and other support for the study is being provided by the chocolate and candy maker Mars—which is probably hoping that the candy aisle at your local supermarket will soon garner some serious appeal for health-food enthusiasts.
NPR spoke with Dr. David Katz, the director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center, who said that a chocolate pill could be a real possibility: "If there's a combination of compounds unique to chocolate that confer a health benefit, there may be some advantage in extracting those and thinking of [them] as something that could be taken as a supplement." Then again, he explained, "One of the beautiful things about chocolate is that it's a source of great pleasure."
If we can have our chocolate and eat it too—while it keeps us alive longer—life will be very good indeed.