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Beautiful, Not Dumb


window at Dalloyau, Paris, across from le Jardin du Luxembourg

Great site, The Beauty Brains -- two researchers answering questions about beauty products from a science and chemistry-based perspective. Here's their bit on a study about chocolate as sun protection:

Today was a candy bar day. Nestle Crunch. It was good and at a mere 220 calories, who could feel bad? Then this story comes across the brain network. It turns out eating that candy bar could actually be helping protect my skin from the damaging effects of UV radiation.

In this small study, researchers experimented with 2 groups of twelve women. One group drank a hot chocolate beverage containing a special, high flavonoid containing chocolate each morning for three months. The other drank a low flavonoid hot chocolate beverage. After 3 months the exposed each woman’s skin to UV radiation and assessed their skin reactions.

It turns out that the ones who had the high flavonoid chocolate did not redden nearly as much. This suggests that this kind of chocolate can provide protection from UV and thus help prevent skin cancer. (Some time ago, they showed a similar effect with lycopene that is found in tomatoes.) Note, this chocolate study is just a preliminary one and the work was partially funded by the Mars Company, so a healthy dose of skepticism should be heeded. However, there is a nice scientific theory about why it works and it would be difficult to fake measured results like skin reddening.

The researchers say right now chocolate will not be a direct replacement for standard skin UV protection lotions. Those are still more effective. But in the future, who knows?

The good new is that if you needed a good reason to eat more candy bars this summer, you just found it. Who knew that Crunch bar was going to help prevent skin cancer? God I love science.

On a chocolate-related note, I suggest the BB girls would be wise to upgrade to a better class of chocolate. Eating mass-marketed American chocolate, once you've, well, been to Paris (or Switzerland), at least in a grocery-shopping sense, is a bit like eating candles.

On an unrelated note, I just got to the alternative newspaper convention in Little Rock, Arkansas. More blog items in the next few hours.

Posted by aalkon at June 15, 2006 7:09 AM

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First, thanks for picture of Dalloyau-Luxembourg. It brought me lovely memories of a couple of long winter afternoons sitting in the upstairs room, looking out the window at the snow-swept Jardin, enjoying tea and a scrumptious cake.

Second, ditto on your chocolate-related note. Most Americans (and Brits for that matter) overwhelmingly prefer milk chocolate to dark chocolate. Milk chocolate is significantly lower in the beneficial flavonoids/antioxidants cited in the article, and it raises your blood sugar to boot (moderate amounts of dark chocolate do not significantly increase blood sugar). Worse yet, mass-produced American and British milk chocolates are typically lower in cocoa content (where the flavonoids are found) than European milk chocolates. So in the hierarchy of chocolate, you can't do much worse than a Nestle Crunch Bar. Why waste 220 calories on muck, when for a bit more money you can buy a delicious bar of Lindt dark chocolate (with orange or raspberry, or pear) that is better for you, and is large enough to share?

Posted by: Ms. Gandhi at June 15, 2006 12:06 PM

I am a complete chocolate snob. You know those pain-in-the-ass onephiles (wine snobs)? I'm that way about chocolate. I can tell the difference between single-source Ivory Coast vs Venezualan. Speak to me not of Hershy's (/spit) - the chocolate version of the five gallon jug of wine.
So as a chocolate snob and the whitest white girl in history I have one thing to say.

Posted by: LXV at June 15, 2006 12:19 PM

LXV chocolate snob: join the club!
What's your favorite place to buy *real* chocolate in L.A.? (I know Chocolatt on Wilshire, ok-ish, but any recommendations are welcome)

Posted by: Frog in L.A. at June 15, 2006 12:56 PM

I never really liked chocolate until my wife's Belgian relation brought some over with her on a visit. It was a revelation, and not only that, you really only wanted to eat one or maybe two pieces, it was that satisfying.

Posted by: Todd Fletcher at June 15, 2006 1:06 PM

Valrhona Noir 71% Cacao. You can get it at Trader Joes. Just one little square will satisfy the strongest chocolate craving.

Posted by: deja pseu at June 15, 2006 2:37 PM

Jackie Danicki of ("more needles, less haystack"), got me the most amazing chocolate in Belgium. Biting into one was like hallucinating for three hours. Will ask her who made them. I'm also one who buys fine chocolate and has a bar last weeks. I eat one square after lunch. Any more is overkill. If it's truly fine.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at June 15, 2006 3:29 PM

For fine Belgian chocolate lovers, Chocolatt is a good place, run by someone from Belgium: 12008 Wilshire blvd, CA 90025, Personally, I prefer the black/bitter French chocolate -- tough to find here.

Posted by: Frog in L.A. at June 15, 2006 4:26 PM

I'm pure white trash, so I'll eat Nestle's, Hershey's, or whatever other tidbits you toss in my trough. Then I'll expect you to do me doggystyle.

Posted by: Lena at June 15, 2006 8:33 PM

It's L'artisan du Chocolat, the one Jackie got me. In. Cred. Ible!

Posted by: Amy Alkon at June 16, 2006 5:22 AM

Unfortunately Frog I don't live in LA. But if you're ever in Pittsburgh head down to the Strip District on Penn Avenue. There's a candy shop there called Mon Ami that sells imported candies like European candy bars and a variety of dark and interesting chocolates (I like the savories, they come in flavors like lavender, pepper, rosemary, cayenne, and orange). They have a FANTASTIC selection of chocolate bars.

Otherwise I'd recomend hitting your local organic food store. They frequently have DAGOBA bars (I like the xocolatl - 74% coco, coco nibs, vanilla, chilis, and nutmeg) GREEN & BLACK'S is another good chocolate bar I often find at organic food stores. They too come in interesting flavors and are good dark. Personally I prefer the Dagoba.

Try VOSGES Haut Chocolat. They have a great variety of truffles, chocolate bars, brownies, and every other good chocolate thing. As far as chocolate bars, I like the Black Pearl Bar (Ginger, sesame seeds, wasabi, and 55% coco) and the Red Fire Bar (ancho and chipolte peppers, ceylon cinnamon and 55% coco). The Naga curry and milk chocolate bar is good, but I'm not wild about milk chocolate. (I think milk chocolate makes the baby Jesus cry). There's also a rather surprising white chocolate and kalamata olive bar, the D'olivia. It's another french chocolate, some single-source chocolates, really good, much better than Godiva truffles (/spit)

For single-estate chocolates (not only does all the coco come from the same country, it comes from the same plantation) try MICHEL CLUIZEL. (Another french chocolate for you Frog!) They have a good selection of single-estate chocolates, dark and milk. There's also two different sampler boxes, one for coco percentages (35% - 99%) and one for origins (seven different countries, ten disks from each country, each 72% coco). They also have a 99% coco bar - not for the faint of heart. (99% is like solid espresso. Do not bite into it expecting something sweet.)

And at you can get PLANTATIONS which is also good for the soul. It is an Ecuadorian varietal called Arriba, noted for a floral scent (I taste jasmine). The product is the result of an alliance between Vintage Chocolates (which is an effort to preserve heirloom varietals, encourage sustainable shade coco cultivation to preserve the rain forest, and get a fair wage for the farmers) and Rainforest Alliance (implementing better business preactices to promote biodiversity, sustainability, and conservation). At $3.50 for a 1o0g bar, it is a *really* good chocolate. I like the 75% coco bar (pure coco, cane sugar, and coco butter - that's it!)

This is not a conprehensive list, but it's everything I have in my stash at the moment.

Incidently, you can tell how much paraffin is in your chocolate bar by letting it melt in your mouth a bit and chewing it a few times. Note how much seems to be sticking to your upper molars. The more that's sticking, the more paraffin is in the chocolate bar. Try it with a Hershy Bar and practically the whole thing sticks to your teeth. Eeeuw! The only thing Hershy bars are good for is s'mores.

Surprisingly, I am actually not that fond of Belgian chocolate. I'm just not wild about the texture. It just doesn't have that 'snap' I like in a chocolate bar.

And if something is added to chocolate it *must* enhance the taste of the chocolate (which is why I'm so wild about chilis in my chocolate. Next time you make brownies or a chocolate cake and just a teensy amount of cayenne - you'll see what I'm talking about.) I don't like nuts/ carmel/ nougat in my chocolate.

Sorry, about the length of the post, but like I said, I'm a snob. (I could go on much longer about the choclate making process and especially the history of it.) I call myself a Cocophile, not a Chocoholic. A Chocoholic considers a Hershy bar a good buy (/spit).
Cocophiles of the world unite!

Posted by: LXV at June 16, 2006 7:48 AM

"I like the savories, they come in flavors like lavender, pepper, rosemary, cayenne, and orange."

You're a total fag, aren't you, LXV?

Posted by: lena at June 16, 2006 9:23 AM

If you like the scientific approach to beauty you should check out Paula Begoun's Cosmetic Cop website. She reviews products based on studies of their ingredients and I've found her advice to be very accurate. She does sell her own cosmetics line and books too, but I've never bought anything and still found just the free information she provides useful.

Posted by: lynley at June 16, 2006 9:41 AM

Sorry Lena, I'm not a fag, total or otherwise. LX is short for Alexandra. I'm just a girl with known epicurean tendancies. *wink*

Posted by: LXV at June 16, 2006 10:20 AM

Actually, Amy, those chocolates came from London. And I love American chocolate - as long as it's milk, I'm happy.

Posted by: Jackie at June 17, 2006 3:14 PM

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