Great news for chocolate lovers: high levels of chocolate consumption might be associated with a one third reduction in the risk of developing heart disease.
That’s according to a study published online in the British Medical Journal, whose findings confirm earlier studies we’ve heard about before that generally agree on a potential beneficial link between chocolate consumption and heart health. However, the authors stress that further studies are needed to test whether chocolate actually causes this reduction or if it can be explained by some other unmeasured (confounding) factor. Any volunteers?
The findings were presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress in Paris, home of some of the best chocolate in the world.
Eating chocolate is believed to have a positive influence on human health due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. This includes reducing blood pressure and improving insulin sensitivity (a stage in the development of diabetes).
But according to the authors, the evidence about how eating chocolate affects your heart still remains unclear. Dr. Oscar Franco and colleagues from the University of Cambridge carried out a large scale review of the existing evidence to evaluate the effects of eating chocolate on cardiovascular events like heart attack and stroke.
They analyzed the results of seven studies, involving over 100,000 participants with and without existing heart disease. For each study, they compared the group with the highest chocolate consumption against the group with the lowest consumption.
Five studies reported a beneficial link between higher levels of chocolate consumption and the risk of cardiovascular events. They found that the “highest levels of chocolate consumption were associated with a 37% reduction in cardiovascular disease and a 29% reduction in stroke compared with lowest levels.” There was no report on what constitutes “high consumption,” for the purposes of obtaining health benefits.
The authors say the findings need to be interpreted with caution, in particular because most commercially available chocolate is very high in calories (around 500 calories for every 100 grams) and eating too much of it could lead to weight gain, risk of diabetes and heart disease.
However, they conclude that given the health benefits of eating chocolate, initiatives to reduce the current fat and sugar content in most chocolate products should be explored.
The studies did not differentiate between dark or milk chocolate and included consumption of chocolate bars, drinks, biscuits and desserts. When eating chocolate always choose dark chocolate with 70% or more cacao content and try raw cacao powder for smoothies, and don’t feel guilty.