September 12, 2011 — A new paper suggests that eating chocolate, among other lifestyle and diet choices, is a key factor in preventing heart disease. Oscar Franco, M.D., presented the paper at the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) Congress 2011.
The World Health Organization predicts that by 2030, nearly 23.6 million people will die from heart disease. A number of recent studies have shown that eating chocolate has 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).
However, the evidence about how eating chocolate affects your heart still remains unclear. So Franco and colleagues from the University of Cambridge carried out a large-scale review of existing evidence to evaluate chocolate’s effects on cardiovascular events like heart attack and stroke.
They analyzed the results of seven studies, involving more than 100,000 participants, on this topic. Differences in study design and quality were taken into account to minimize bias.
Five studies reported a beneficial link between higher levels of chocolate consumption and the risk of cardiovascular events. They also found the highest levels of chocolate consumption were associated with a 37 percent reduction in cardiovascular disease and a 29 percent reduction in stroke compared with lowest levels.
The studies did not differentiate between dark or milk chocolate and included consumption of chocolate bars, drinks, biscuits and desserts.
The authors say the findings need to be interpreted with caution, as commercially available chocolate is very calorific (around 500 calories for every 100 grams). As a result, eating too much could in itself lead to weight gain, risk of diabetes and heart disease.
They conclude that, given the health benefits of eating chocolate, initiatives to reduce current fat and sugar content in most chocolate products, without affecting the taste sensation, should be explored.
For more information: www.bmj.com