Sweet: Chocolate Is Good For the Heart, Analysis Suggests

In a positive development for chocolate lovers everywhere, a recent analysis indicated that eating chocolate at least once per week reduced the risk of heart disease.

Clinical trials have shown that the consumption of chocolate has favorable effects on blood pressure and endothelial function,” the authors wrote. “The previous meta-analysis showed that many dietary components, including chocolate, appear to be beneficial for cardiovascular disease. However, the potential benefit of increased chocolate consumption, reducing coronary artery disease (CAD) risk is not known. We aimed to explore the association between chocolate consumption and CAD.”

The study, published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, was a meta-analysis that included six prospective studies with a mean follow-up of almost nine years (8.7 years). The combined study population consisted of 336,289 individuals that had a combined 21,777 diseases (14,043 cases of CAD, 4,667 myocardial infarctions, 2,735 cerebrovascular accidents and 322 cases of heart failure). Most individuals were from the UNited States (n=266,264), with others from Sweden (n=68,809) and 12,16 from Australia (n=1,216).

According to the analysis results, the authors reported that consumption of chocolate more than once per week or more than 3.5 times per month was associated with a reduction in the risk for CAD. The authors conducted a sensitivity analysis to determine whether the results of the present meta-analysis remained the same as with one of the analyses included in the study sample (one that included consistent hetergeneity due to adjustment of variables). After excluding one of the analyses (due to presentation in abstract form), the authors said that “chocolate consumption more than one time per week or more than 3.5 times per month is probably associated with a decreased risk for CAD.” They went onto note that chocolate consumption offers several cardioprotective nutrients including flavinols (epicatechin, catechin, and procyanidins), as well as methylxanthines, polyphenols, and stearic acid. they also cautioned that the infavorable effects of other ingredients such as fats, milk, and sugars, also needed to be factored in and accounted for.

“Further long-term, double-blind, randomized controlled trials are needed to determine the underlying physiological mechanisms of the cardioprotective effects of chocolate and the association with CAD risk,” they said. “Future studies to determine the role of genetic potential and the beneficial effects of chocolate on CAD may be needed. Dark chocolate consumption at least once a week (e.g. as a substitute for sugared candy) with overall caloric intake tracking is probably safe.”