Eating chocolate linked to ‘lower heart disease and stroke risk’

Moderate chocolate consumption: a way to reduce cardiovascular risk?

shutterstock_59246779In recent years, multiple articles by the media cover the possible beneficial health effects of chocolate consumption, especially in reducing cardiovascular disease. But what is the extent to which this can be taken seriously and what kind of implications does this have for clinical practice?

In a study conducted by the University of Aberdeen, researchers examined the eating habits of 25,000 men and women in Norfolk, England, and their effect on long-term health. The findings from this study suggest a possible association between chocolate consumption and the incidence of heart disease and stroke, in which moderate chocolate consumption (16-100 g/day) may actually lower the incidence of heart disease and stroke. When moderate chocolate consumers where compared to the people who ate no chocolate at all, the moderate chocolate consumers showed an 11% lower risk of cardiovascular disease and 25% lower risk of cardiogenic death. The research also suggested that this effect is not limited to dark chocolate, showing that milk chocolate was more frequently eaten by the participants.

However, since this is an observational study, a cause and effect relationship cannot be ascertained. Furthermore, the moderate chocolate consumers were, on average, younger, weighted less, had lower blood pressure and were more likely to exercise on a regular basis. These factors all contribute to a lower risk of developing heart disease or stroke. Lastly, the consumption of chocolate was around 100g a week for most of the moderate chocolate consumers in the study, so it cannot be said that eating 100g a day will be beneficial.

Other studies where participants were randomised in two groups, namely chocolate consumers and no chocolate consumers, also suggest that chocolate consumption may lower the incidence of cardiovascular disease. For instance, by reducing blood pressure. Taken together, these studies suggest the presence of health benefits from eating chocolate.

In short, moderate chocolate consumption does not noticeably increase the risk of developing heart disease or stroke, and might even have some benefits in people with a healthy weight. However, because the results of these studies are still not conclusive about the health effects of chocolate consumption, physicians should not recommend patients to increase their chocolate intake. This kind of recommendation in overweight patients can even have detrimental effects, increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke.

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