Well, folks, here's another installment for the law of unintended consequences, or the life's not as simple as you wish it were logbook. For years, the chocolate industry has been sponsoring research that showed that cocoa butter was good for your circulating lipid levels, and hence good for your heart. The Miracle Elixir, chocolate has even been shown to prevent cavities. Great news for those with chocolate madness, restaurants serving double or triple chocolate cakes, and great news for those looking for warm, loving Valentine's day gifts! Eat up, slim down, live longer, and love.
Unfortunately, there's a spoil-sport in every crowd. A BBC story throws a wet blanket on chocolate mania. It appears that rather than cheering you up, chocolate is a real downer. Maybe (hopefully) that's why your Valentine burst into tears and said s/he didn't really want to be your Valentine after sampling from the Lady Godivas you gave er.
It may be less than a shock to learn that the vast Cocoa-conspiracy of Hershey-funded researchers didn't happen to report this side of things. But they may not have bothered to look at what, for the researcher and his/her grant prospects, would be too saddening. Now, of course, the discoverers of this new effect say -- surprise! -- that more research is needed, so we can find out whether chocolate causes depression, or chocolate eaters are already self-medicating when the epidemiologists show up!
What is the reason for this? It's the way science works and is rewarded (not with chocolates!). It's the scientific method, that 'tunnels' through complex traits by intentionally keeping as many constant as possible so the effects of one only is studied. See our earlier posts on 'tunneling' and the philosophy of science. The problem is that when we do this, we intentionally ignore the other factors that also are at play in the real world. We know this, but we run to the BBC or NYTimes with our findings anyway.
It's sad enough that the pharmaceutical industry is trying hard to get all of us on lifetime maintenance medication: tranquilizers, neurotransmitter (IQ) boosters, statins (lower cholesterol), and who knows what else. So we see lots of advertising to push this. It's great for business. But the chocolate industry has itself been trying to push its products essentially as maintenance medication (eat a lot of it, every day, your whole life long, to prevent depression and heart disease). Pretty disgusting (the idea, if not the chocolate).
Please pass the cherry pie!