Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

Chocolate doesn't just make you fat, it broadens the mind, too

I'm about to up my chocolate intake. Don't try to stop me. I will flatten you like a steamroller over a flea. You say: "We've only got your health at heart.

Well, that, and your flab." That is a good point, well made, and I thank you for it. But, if I were me, this is how I'd respond: "Unhand me immediately, madam. For, according to the latest reports, while chocolate is bad for you, it's also good for you."

You've heard this before, and it can drive you batty. I've just spent a morning reading about chocolate, wine, nuts, prunes and popcorn, and I'm now fit for a mammoth session with the Samaritans.

The first body blow came with the shock news that popcorn gives you wotsname. Alzheimer's. I eat popcorn every night, even on the Sabbath. It's my wee treat when I pull the curtains closed and settle down to watch Smallville - all 10 series; I'm a completist, d'you see? - on DVD.

The culprit is a butter flavouring called diacetyl and, don't quote me on this, but I think we're mainly talking about microwave popcorn. My own brand of popcorn may be in the clear, but the revelations have shaken me nonetheless.

I wondered what the world was coming to and whether I could live in a world without popcorn, when, lo, the cavalry came riding over the hill in the shape of a chocolate bar.

Chocolate is my other nightly treat. If that sounds sybaritic, we're talking about one square, and it's 85% cocoa. For, just when the world was looking bleak, another report this week said dark chocolate stops you getting Alzheimer's.

Problem solved: in a calorie exchange, I'll give up my popcorn and have three squares of chocolate instead of one. I shall miss the popcorn. Its munchability is good for watching movies.

But I've become an expert at savouring single squares of chocolate, and may even be able to make these squares last longer than the popcorn. Still, what a palaver it all is.

We can't just enjoy anything any more. In the good old days, people ate loads of chocolate and never got fat. The few glandularly oppressed fat people that waddled hither and yon were loved by all and, in turn, were always jolly themselves.

Now they're all guilt-ridden nervous wrecks. If you poke one with a stick, they often take a swing at you, whereas in the past they just laughed merrily.

Boffins, meanwhile, keep tampering with chocolate to try and make it less enjoyable. This week, they announced they'd replaced the fat in chocolate with fruit juice.

The result? Healthier chocolate. The drawback? It doesn't taste of chocolate. It tastes of fruit. Doubtless, in some other lab, they're trying to make fruit taste of chocolate, which would at least have more takers.

Chocolate is a complex business. In relationships, it's said to be a substitute for procreation, particularly among those who've been married for more than three years and who lie in surveys about how often they know each other Biblically in any given week.

At any rate, it's a comfort. With a recession raging, the masses are shoving it down their cakeholes to try and make everything better. Me included. And with every square, I curse those bankers whose excesses force me to eat the stuff.

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