You already know dark chocolate is a pretty solid way to give your health a boost, but lately there’ve been a slew of headlines that claim adding zinc to the treat can help you live longer. Well, don’t chase your chocolate bar with a supplement and expect miraculous results just yet—it turns out that statement might be a bit overblown.
Here’s the backstory: In a study published in the journal Nature Chemistry, researchers looked at how the mineral zinc interacts with a type of polyphenol called hydroquinone. (Polyphenols are plant compounds with antioxidant properties, and you’ll find them in foods like chocolate, coffee, and wine.)
When teamed up, zinc and hydroquinone appear to degrade superoxide, a substance that has been linked to oxidative stress if there’s too much of it in the body. Oxidative stress, of course, causes cell damage and has been linked to health issues including faster aging, cancer, heart disease, and neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s. So basically, this study shows promise that zinc could help boost the power of existing antioxidant compounds.
“The study doesn’t make use of any of the polyphenols found in coffee or chocolate, so recommending that people add zinc to these would be a bit premature. From the work done so far, I could not guarantee that any benefit would result.” —Christian Goldsmith, PhD
Here’s the deal, though: it’s WAY too premature to assume based on this study that eating chocolate and zinc will make you live longer. First of all, nothing has been tested on living subjects, although study author Christian Goldsmith, PhD, tells me cell studies are planned for the near future. So…it’s kind of a long shot to just conclude that this automatically means something right now for people.
Plus, the researchers didn’t explicitly look at whole chocolate (or coffee, or wine) combined with zinc, and that makes a big difference on whether it works IRL. “The study doesn’t make use of any of the polyphenols found in coffee or chocolate, so recommending that people add zinc to these would be a bit premature,” says Dr. Goldsmith. “From the work done so far, I could not guarantee that any benefit would result,” he adds.
So yeah, pairing zinc and chocolate (or adding zinc to food in general) isn’t instantly going to become your Fountain of Youth—which, TBH, is kind of a bummer. That said, they’re both great to include in your diet, in moderation. The flavanols in dark chocolate can help you fight off disease and give your brain a boost, and zinc keeps your immune system strong, helps heal wounds, fights off colds, and can keep your eyes healthy as you age.
So clearly they’re great on their own…but relying on them together to see your 100th birthday? Let’s just say the jury’s still out on that.
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