Eating chocolate more than once a week has been found to lower the chance of heart disease, a review of 50 years of studies shows.
The research suggests that chocolate consumption benefits heart health, particularly improving blood pressure and the functions of the endothelium (the inner lining of the heart and blood vessels).
Dr Chayakrit Krittanawong, the study’s first author, said:
“Our study suggests that chocolate helps keep the heart’s blood vessels healthy.
In the past, clinical studies have shown that chocolate is beneficial for both blood pressure and the lining of blood vessels.
I wanted to see if it affects the blood vessels supplying the heart (the coronary arteries) or not.
And if it does, is it beneficial or harmful?”
Researchers analysed six studies on 336,289 participants with a follow-up of nearly nine years.
People who ate chocolate more than once a week had a reduced coronary artery disease risk of 8 percent when compared to those who ate chocolate less than once a week.
During the nine year follow-up, 4,667 participants had a heart attack and there were 14,043 cases of coronary artery disease (CAD).
CAD is the most common type of heart disease, which occurs when the arteries become narrowed and hardened and so they can’t supply blood to the heart muscle properly.
If CAD advances, the blood flow to the heart will suddenly become clogged and cause a heart attack.
Dr Krittanawong said:
“Chocolate contains heart healthy nutrients such as flavonoids, methylxanthines, polyphenols and stearic acid which may reduce inflammation and increase good cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein or HDL cholesterol).”
Dr Krittanawong pointed out that the study didn’t investigated what amount of chocolate and what type of chocolate can boost heart health.
“Chocolate appears promising for prevention of coronary artery disease, but more research is needed to pinpoint how much and what kind of chocolate could be recommended.
Moderate amounts of chocolate seem to protect the coronary arteries but it’s likely that large quantities do not.
The calories, sugar, milk, and fat in commercially available products need to be considered, particularly in diabetics and obese people.”
About the author
Mina Dean is a Nutritionist and Food Scientist. She holds a BSc in Human Nutrition and an MSc in Food Science.
The study was published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology (Krittanawong et al., 2020).