Research has good news for indulgences

Updated: 2008-01-07 13:53

Did your New Year's resolutions include giving up alcohol, chocolate or coffee? According to the latest health research, you can keep indulging.

What a dull business life would be without indulgence. So why does some bore constantly condemn your favourite food, your thickening waistline, your morning coffee and the chocolate you crave while sitting back with a glass of red wine, after a hearty meal of steak and chips?

International research in 2007 provided surprisingly good news for key indulgences. Allowing for some contradictions, and blocking your ears to the dreary droning of dietitians, it turns out that on balance, it's OK to enjoy your old favourites.

The drawback, overall, is that less is better than more. Here's what the research found:


A 30-year study revealed moderate drinking of coffee has beneficial effects against diabetes, Alzheimer's, kidney stones, gall stones, depression, cancer, suicide, and may hinder the development of cirrhosis of the liver.

Even excessive coffee drinking does not increase your risk of coronary heart disease.

Coffee protects women at high risk of getting breast cancer.

Drinking coffee and exercising a lot in combination may help reduce the risk of skin cancer.

Four or more cups of coffee a day may prevent gout.

Coffee possibly protects women's memories. Provisional research suggests that women over 65 who drink three or more cups a day suffer less memory loss than women the same age who drink no coffee at all.


A new book, Teaching Yourself: Teaching Your Brain, recommends eating dark chocolate, having plenty of sex, and eating cold meats and fish for breakfast to boost your brain power.

Resistance to thoughts of chocolate is futile. Those who try hardest to suppress their longing for chocolate, especially women, end up by eating significantly more.

Eating chocolate can help sharpen the mind and give a short-term boost to cognitive skills. It can possibly even help fight fatigue, sleep deprivation, and the effects of ageing.

Researchers had couples melt chocolate in their mouths, then kiss. They found that all regions of the brain get a bigger boost from chocolate, and it's longer lasting than the effects of kissing.

Women crave chocolate more than men do when they're depressed. This suggests that chocolate may play a role in improving mood.

A stroll followed by a glass of chocolate milk could help maintain muscle function and promote longevity among older people.

The Kuna Indians of Panama are being studied because they drink large quantities of flavonoid-rich cocoa. Members of this tribe do not have age-related rises in blood pressure.

A few squares of dark chocolate a day is as effective as aspirin in preventing blood clots.

A group of Wellington's Courtenay Place businessmen, owners of pubs, clubs and restaurants, is considering handing out free chocolate to people leaving clubs as they close, a tactic trialled successfully Britain in an effort to help prevent violent crime.


There are definitely cardiovascular benefits for men who drink two 140ml (5oz) glasses of red wine a day, and for women who drink one. This can also decrease risk of stroke, and may help longevity.

One or two glasses of red wine a day may improve memory.

Men who drink between five and seven glasses of red wine per week have half the chance of getting prostate cancer of those who drink no red wine at all.

People who drink red wine occasionally lower their risk of developing dementia.

Wine drinkers have healthier diets in general than beer drinkers. They typically buy fruit and vegetables, poultry, cooking oil, low-fat cheese, milk and meat. Beer drinkers tend to buy pre-cooked food, sugar, cold cuts, chips, pork, butter, sausages, lamb, and soft drinks.

Red wines made from cabernet sauvignon, merlot, pinot noir and shiraz grapes are potent killers of bacteria.

Resveratrol, a naturally occurring compound in red wine, may help prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes.

Flavanols found in red wine (and chocolate, green tea and blueberries) can help sharpen the mind and give a short-term boost to cognitive skills.


Women who drink three or more glasses of red wine a day increase their risk of getting breast cancer by as much statistically as women who smoke a packet of fags a day increase their risk of lung cancer.


White wine kills salmonella within seconds, and is a good counter-top stain remover.


Having less sex leads to having no sex, because the less sex you have, the more work you take on. German researchers found that 36% of men and 35% of women who have sex only once a week take on extra work to compensate, which means they have even less time for sex. On the other hand, people having sex twice or more a week just don't want to work.

An internet survey by the Australian Women's Weekly found that 73% of women have sex when they're not in the mood, on the basis that they'll probably end up enjoying it.

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