How Much Chocolate Should Anyone Eat and How Much Should Anyone Rely on Health Forum Advice

August 19, 2008 at 1:26 pm 12 comments

I love chocolate but have never considered that the amount I eat is unhealthy. In fact, how common is it to eat chocolate – or any other food – to the point of being worried? In the case of white_sakura (someone’s user id), she (I believe the people posting here are female) said in a forum, “I was wondering if it is too much to have about 30% of my calorie allowance to go toward chocolate.” The forum, part of calorie-count, from About.com Health, is a site for people who are concerned about weight loss and nutrition.

In response to her post, w_s, as someone nicknamed her, received 6 responses in 2 days and also provided clarification a few times. It was quite a lively discussion compared to some forums, where questions go permanently unanswered. In the ensuing discussion, one person told w_s what seemed like practical advice to me: “30% would be too much. Chocolate, although lovely, is just sugar and fat… the real downside is that you’d be trying to get all your nutrition from the remaining 70% of your diet.” Another agreed, “30% is waayyyy too high.” Someone else differed in her view, “If it fits in your cals and you feel good, go for it!”

Other advice was to try savoring her chocolate – which w_s was already doing, taking an hour to eat 2 squares. Wow, she must not have a busy schedule. I suppose you could savor the taste of chocolate for hours as long as you don’t work in a call center where you have to answer the phone and talk to people. Or any other occupation where you have to talk to people. Or touch anything. That doesn’t leave many jobs.

A side discussion had to do with the reported health benefits of dark chocolate, including a link to an article in WebMD, which reports on a study and concludes that a balanced diet and exercise is the key to a healthy heart. The same person wrote about her own daily chocolate consumption, which “keeps me from overindulging in some other not-so-good-for-me things”. Did she mean licorice, Pringles, or more serious vices?

Many people are more comfortable seeking peer advice online, often more open anonymously than they would be with their doctor – or a close friend. (Actually, that made me wonder if w_s has a spouse or roommate, and, if so, does she eat in front of him or her?) It’s also heartwarming that people respond, and most empathically. No one called w_s obsessive or addicted or recommended that she take a leap into Willy Wonka’s river of chocolate. However, only two responses seemed medically sound, those saying that 30% is too high. No one suggested making an appointment with a doctor or nutritionist or following a plan for a nutritionally-balanced diet.

There was only one mention of a specific product in a response, a type of Lindt chocolate. After reading that I noticed that the banner ad was for car insurance and the sidebar ad was for flights to London – now Switzerland I could understand! More relevant to the discussion topic, the banner at the bottom was a meter for diabetics. That ad crystallized the issue for me: poor nutrition can have severe consequences. My advice to w_s: getting anonymous online advice is great but this is a case where professional medical advice could add healthy years to your life.

Entry filed under: health, online health communities. Tags: , , , , , , .

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12 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Dshouse  |  October 26, 2010 at 10:05 am

    I am going to have to agree with Aliegh on this one. The benefits (supposed) of eating chocolate do not compare to the downside of putting that much fat and sugar into your body. Diabetes and poor health incidence related to weight gain, especially in people over 40, is a massive strain on health insurance. This country is undergoing a fat apocolypse..something needs to give.

    Reply
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  • 3. Quote.org  |  April 13, 2010 at 1:24 pm

    If there is one thing I’ve learned in all my years of dieting, it is never good to totally deprive oneself. Everything in moderation. I actually heard that having some dark chocolate every now and then is actually good for the body.

    Reply
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  • 5. Landolite  |  December 10, 2009 at 2:15 am

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    Reply
  • 6. justinslem4  |  November 29, 2009 at 11:37 pm

    ok

    Reply
  • 7. Dieting Delilah  |  April 26, 2009 at 7:14 pm

    I think it is quite astonishing how much people tend to listen to online advice. I ask people for their opinions too, but not in serious cases. In many health forums you see people discussing what medicine they should take and I always wonder why they don’t go to a doctor. I would never listen to advice on medicine online.
    I run a dieting website and when weight and dieting habits are concerned I don’t think it is bad to listen to people’s opinions, but it is always important to think if an argument or advice is honest and true. I would always double check!

    Reply
  • 8. aleigh  |  April 19, 2009 at 6:43 pm

    why would any doctor recommend chocolate for anyone especially old people who have a variety of health problems. the #1 problems with old people are constipation, acid, heartburns and always too much intake of sugars, and weight gain generally from the truck loads of medicines they take. chocolate to my understandings also cause ones heart to race even after one small piece of cake. I dont understand the doctors wanting to encourage chocolate when there are so many bad side effects.I help an elderly person 85 and his children tell me he can have chocolate and he has a heart problem and many other health issuses. I told them you can feed him what you want but, I disagree with you and I refuse to serve him chocolate. Its like milk the family once again said the 85 could drink milk even with affection. Hello, it doesnt take alot of brains to know you should not drink milk with a cold or, and infection. once again they said the doctor said he could drink milk . I intruly question the doctors today who are encouraging chocolate and okaying milk when people are sick and dealing with health problems.. every time this gentlemen is fed high intakes of fatty foods and drinks too much milk and eats alot of sweets he gets sick. last time he choked on his saliva and what a horrible scene for this old man and of course I called 911 and then, they agreed afterwards the emergency he shouldnt drink milk. hello………..its just like chocolate it is very wrong for doctors to tell people its okay to eat chocolate because chocolate is so good you know they will eat more than one or two pieces. Its like ice cream and how nursing homes and hospitals are giving people cold ice water or cold water instead of warm warm and, or warm tea or coffee. cold ice water or even cold water is bad for old people especially in a hospital and nursing home who are dealing with many health problems. what are wrong with the doctors and nurses and families today encouraging these ideas. many people say the problem today is selfishness and greed and I’m starting to believe that very strongly because I would never encourage anyone to do the things or eat the things they are telling people to do and eat. another thing is they are encouraging physcial thearpy on alot of old people and it is not good because they are dealing with bladder problems heart problems cancer and many other health problems. this old man is in pain and they want him to continue his thearpy and it seems they are interest in money not his feelings of pain and suffering. “this mans sister in law had cancer and was in the nursing home filled with cancer throughout her entire body and they were manipulating her into doing physcial thearpy and she was filled with cancer and died after 2 months in the nursing home . excuse me ,, anyone who is doing physcial thearpy on people who are dying and knowing they are going to die has a severe problem including the doctors. behaving in such evil ways over greed is what I call it and doctors like this should be fired and nursing homes and hospitals should be under investigation for elderly dying abuse….. no one on their death bed or dying should be doing physcial thearpy …………what has happen to the human being of love and care in this world… you have alot of triangle abuse in this country among the doctors, bankers , insurance companies and lawyers and that triangle is in connection with bankers, doctors and lawyers owning nursing homes, hospitals and assisting living all for truck loads of money why they are feeding their patients truck loads of medicine cause the person heart, kidney , lung , bladder, and many other health problems so they can fill their hospitals and nursing home and this is the evilness in the minds and hearts of all of those we are suppose to trust and this is sick and sad….I believe in the Godly saying and that is do unto others as you would want them to do unto you and your family and friends however people of greed will only laugh and remain in their evil silent for greed money and attention.

    Reply
  • 9. Bookmarks about Calorie  |  October 3, 2008 at 8:00 pm

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  • 10. Ignatia/Inge de Waard  |  August 25, 2008 at 7:27 pm

    ah chocolate, dark chocolate surely has health benefits. The amount of cacao in a chocolate bar should be above 65% to become healthy, the darker the chocolate the less fat and sugar.

    the Belgian dark chocolate lover

    Reply
  • 11. Catarina  |  August 21, 2008 at 2:09 am

    Hi Lisa!

    You have a good point reccomending W_S taking advices about how to have better nutrition. A balanced life is the best way to have a lot of healthy year in front of you.
    But people have an issue regarding daily intake of nutrition, there are a lot of possibilities out ther to get extra nutrition to their bodys. Has anyone measure the ORAC value in chocolate? I’we heard the chocolate contains antioxidants.

    Regards from Sweden

    Reply
  • […] Original post by Lisa Neal Gualtieri […]

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Lisa Gualtieri, PhD, ScM

Lisa GualtieriLisa Gualtieri is Assistant Professor at Tufts University School of Medicine in the Department of Public Health and Community Medicine. She is Director of the Certificate Program in Digital Health Communication. Lisa teaches Designing Health Campaigns using Social Media, Social Media and Health, Mobile Health Design, and Digital Strategies for Health Communication. Contact Lisa: lisa.gualtieri@tufts.edu

@lisagualtieri


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