20 December 1998

Christmas Candy Encourages Longevity

Indulging in sweets a few times a month can help you to live longer, suggest I-Min Lee and Ralph Paffenbarger from Harvard School of Public Health in this week's BMJ. In a study of 7841 men who commenced their studies at Harvard between 1916 and 1950, the authors found that those who ate candy (chocolates or sweets) lived almost a year longer than those who abstained. Consumption of candy was asessed in 1988, when men were aged 65 years on average.

Over the next five years, mortality rates were lowest among those indulging one to three times a month and hightes among those who abstained, even after accounting for confounding factors. The authors found that those who indulged three or more times a week did not reap as much benefit as men eating chocolates or sweets one to three times a month and therefore caution that "as with most things in life, moderation seems to be paramount". However those eating goodies three or more times a week still did better than abstainers.

Lee and Paffenbarger attempt to explain this phenomenon. They say that the presence of antioxidant phenols in chocolate, which are also present in red wine, could be helping to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.they also speculate that cacao, from which chocolate in made, can inhibit oxidation of low density lipoprotien cholesterol as well as enhance immune funtion, leading to decreased risks of heart disease and cancer.