15 February 2004

On Chocolates, Massacres, and World Records
---A Post Valentine Day Reflection

DARK, DARK CHOCOLATES. Recently I’ve been craving for chocolates. I have always liked chocolate, mainly the dark type. My special favorite is the one made by Meiji and it is sold as bars called Meiji Black. Of course, there are the better ones like Godiva and Theobroma but I really am partial with Meiji. The bitterness is just right. I also like Max Brenner’s dark chocolate drinks in his patented hug cup.

Last week in Washington, in a convention sponsored by the University of California and the chocolate company Mars, chocolate experts (they call themselves ‘scientists’) gathered and said good things about chocolate. They traced back history back in the mid-19th century during the Mayan and Aztec eras when they cooked up strong chocolate concoctions and used it as a cure for almost any ailment.

One of those speakers in that convention, a fellow by the name of Dr. Norman K. Hollenberg, professor of medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, investigated the Kuna Indians of the San Blas islands of Panama to examine the connection between cocoa consumption and blood pressure. The Kuna Indians are known to have a high-salt diet but normal blood pressure, and they consume locally grown cocoa at every meal. His study tracked some Kuna Indians to the city, where they started drinking commercially ground cocoa. It was observed afterwards that their blood pressure readings tended to rise. While presenting the results of his research, published in the December 2003 issue of the Journal of Hypertension, Dr. Hollenberg cited a second study showing that cocoa rich in flavonoids could help increase blood flow in the brain and in the hands and legs.

The study financed by National Institutes of Health grants and by Mars, involved 27 healthy people ages 18 to 72. Each consumed a cocoa beverage containing 900 milligrams of flavonols (a class of flavonoids) daily for five days. Using a finger cuff, blood flow was measured on the first and fifth days of the study. After five days, researchers measured what they called "significant improvement" in blood flow and the function of the endothelial cells that line the blood vessels. Dr. Hollenberg's research indicates, preliminarily, that consuming high-flavonol cocoa helps regulate the synthesis of nitric oxide, a compound in the body that helps it maintain blood pressure and blood flow in the endothelial cells. The flavonols may also help vessels dilate and help keep platelets from clustering on the blood vessel walls.

Another finding is that something gets lost in the processing of cocoa, hence the useful flavonols are not taken in the amounts they are suppose to produce their desired effects. The chocolate experts suggest drinking fresh cocoa instead of consuming processed commercial chocolate bars. Fresh cocoa beans are far richer in flavonol — about 10,000 milligrams per 100 grams, or about seven tablespoons — than processed chocolate products.

Also dark chocolate is always superior in antioxidants than white chocolate or ordinary chocolate. I guess I made a good choice in my favorite chocolate.

CHAINSAW MASSACRE. On Valentines Day, after a hearty and healthy dinner at our favorite Italian restaurant, my soulmate and I hied off to watch the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Hahaha. What a romantic Valentine nightcap, you might say. There were two other movie choices which might have been a better Valentine movie choice (Milan and Chasing Liberty) but no, we are simply not your usual couple. The film was a remake of the 70s classic horror film of the same title starring five teenagers hunted down one by one by Leatherface, the massacre chainsaw master. It was a good remake. My soulmate liked it. As for me, I had flashes of my classes in Anatomy back in medical school. A research I did revealed there was really NO Texas chainsaw massacre that happened. As usual, Hollywood just created another imaginary story and tried to pass it off as something like a true story.

FIVE THOUSAND ONE HUNDRED TWENTY-THREE. The actual world record number is
5,122; I just wanted it to become 5,123 because I really wanted my soulmate and I to be there. On the eve of Valentine’s Day, Manila was able to break the previous world record of 4445 smooching couples set last month in Santiago, Chile. I have tried and tried to convince my soulmate to register so we can join but she was chicken. She said matters like that should be enjoyed in the privacy of our bedroom. Besides, she said, Manila could handily break the world record without our meek assistance. She was right.

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