Chocolate Boosts Workouts. Really.
By Nina Squeri
This article was written by Gretchen Reynolds for the New York Times. It was published on March 23rd, 2016. From the beginning, this article leaps to the conclusion that chocolate can enhance performance during workouts. It states that chocolate contains a plant nutrient called epicatechin which prompts blood vessels to release nitric oxide. With the release of nitric oxide comes vasodilation, enhanced energy availability, and an easier uptake of oxygen by the body's cells. The article then states that nitric oxide is a substance that has been utilized by athletes and researchers in the past, though no person has found an appealing enough way to consume this nitric oxide. The piece goes on to reference a study in which cyclists showed only small improvements in performance when taking chocolate supplements for two weeks. In conclusion, it recommends athletes to swap out usual snacks for a small helping of chocolate if they are interested in improving their performance.
Such an appetizing health recommendation comes the question of validity in the article. The first of these evaluations concern the author and her credentials. When researching Gretchen Reynolds there is no history of college degrees listed, though there is a number of press magazines that she writes for. These include Runner’s World and Bicycling Magazine, Chicago Magazine, Outside Magazine, National Geographic Adventure Magazine, O: The Oprah Magazine, Women’s Health, and now a weekly “Phys Ed” column in the New York Times Magazine. She has written one book and is in the process of writing her second. All of her work for the past ten years has been devoted to health and wellness, and she has even achieved two nominations for the National Magazine Award in her past. Though there is no mention of any college degrees, it seems that Gretchen Reynolds is a tried, true, and trusted writer among many popular magazines. She writes well and clearly to the point of her conclusion. From the start to the end, Reynolds writes to appropriately clarify and explain her point.
Other credentials from the article left to evaluate include the publisher. The international publisher, The New York Times, has been around since 1851 as an established trusted magazine among the public. This magazine site is updated regularly, has the names of the providers available, has an identified editorial board, and does not sell products or services besides subscription options. All of these factors lead The New York Times to be valid.
Another piece to address is the validity of the research study Reynolds references in her article. The research study was published in December of 2015 by Biomed Central Limited, a site that is not peer reviewed. The piece only addressed 10 male cyclist athletes, 5 of which were treated as constants. Though this study did conclude that performance was enhanced in all of the participants who consumed chocolate rich in epicatechrin, it was a very small and non-diverse study.
Overall, I conclude that this article is not valid. Though the author and publisher seem reputable, Reynolds only had a single research study to prove her article. The claim seems too good to be true in both the article and the research study that relied on just 10 similar participants.
research study: Brouner, J., Rishikesh, K., & Spendiff, O. (2015, December). Dark chocolate supplementation reduces the oxygen cost of moderate intensity cycling. Retrieved April 4, 2016. Retrieved from http://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12970-015-0106-7
article: Reynolds, G. (2016, March). Chocolate Can Boost Your Workout. Really. Retrieved April 4, 2016. Retrieved from http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/03/23/chocolate-really-can-boost-your-workout/