♦ Eating chocolate regularly helps reduce risk of heart disease according to study.
♦ Observational study investigated diets of 21,000 people some of whom were eating up to 100g chocolate daily.
Chocolate remains exciting newsworthy research especially when it comes to justifying its consumption.
Research into the health benefits of cocoa and chocolate continue and the body of evidence for its nutritional benefits has been added to by studies at a number of UK based universities notably Aberdeen, Manchester, Cambridge and East Anglia (Kwok et al., 2015). This is regarded as the first major piece of research analysis that defined the outcomes appropriately.
They found that those of us who eat chocolate compared to those who didn’t in simple terms reduced their risk of heart or cardiovascular disease by 11% and with it a 25% reduction of associated death taking a number of factors into account. There was also the observation that the risk of death or at least hospital admission was lowered by 9% due to coronary heart disease. The risk of stroke was reduced by 23%.
The level of consumption was up to 100g of chocolate for some whilst the average was 7g and 20% of subjects did not eat any chocolate.
Most chocolate eaten was by younger people with lower weight and waist to hip ratios, and lower blood pressure. They were also doing more physical exercise and did not have type 2 diabetes. These are all factors for a favourable cardiovascular disease risk profile.
The researchers caution that this is an observational study so a cause and effect relationship cannot be drawn. Some recent research had been deliberately misleading in the conclusions that had been drawn but this recent study looked at a statistically significant population of 21,000 adults from both sexes taking part in the EPIC-Norfolk study. This has been an ongoing investigation into the effects of diet on long-term health in over 25,000 people for 12 years.
The study also included evidence from nine other studies involving 158,000 people in the meta-analysis to bolster the observations and any conclusions drawn. A higher rather than lower consumption of chocolate was associated with lower CHD risk, stroke, and death based on evidence from pooled studies.
The caveat which is rightly expressed by nutritionists is that eating too much including chocolate increases body weight which is a risk factor for heart disease generally because of its relatively high sugar and fat content. Clearly there is a balance somewhere on how much chocolate could be consumed which depends on activity levels, general health, current body weight etc. Most nutritionists would suggest to us that when we are at a suitable weight then eating chocolate in moderation should have some benefits. The benefits are due to the presence of cocoa derived flavonoids which have been found in other studies to improve vascular blood flow and general endothelial function by improving the elasticity of the blood vessels (Corti et al., 2009).
The research on chocolate has already been demonstrated to prevent:-
- Alzheimer’s Disease;
- improve mental acuity (see article);
- reduce mental fatigue and memory loss with ageing;
- minimise the impact of type 2 diabetes;
- lower cholesterol levels.
The research was funded by the Medical Research Council and Cancer Research UK.
Corti, R., Flammer, A.J., Hollenberg, N.K., et al. (2009) Cocoa and cardiovascular health. Circulation 119 pp. 1433–41. doi:10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.108.827022
Kwok, C.S., Boekholdt, S.M., Lenjes, M.A.H., Loke, Y.K., Luben, R.N., Yeong, J.K., Wareham, N.J., Myint, P.K., Khaw, K-T. (2015) Habitual chocolate consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease among healthy men and women. Heart doi:10.1136/heartjnl-2014-307050