Desserts dubbed Death by Chocolate may be in need of rebranding after a recent study has found that high levels of chocolate consumption might be associated with a one third reduction in the risk of developing heart disease.
The results of the study, published on bmj.com, agree with existing studies that generally confirm a potential beneficial link between chocolate consumption and heart health.
The World Health Organisation predicts that by 2030, nearly 23.6 million people will die from heart disease, the leading cause of death in the world.
Other recent studies have shown that eating chocolate is good for 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).
Even so, the evidence about how chocolate affects the heart have been unclear. Therefore, Dr Oscar Franco and colleagues from the University of Cambridge conducted a large scale review of the existing evidence to evaluate the effects of eating chocolate on heart attack and stroke.
Five studies reported a beneficial link between higher levels of chocolate consumption and the risk of cardiovascular events. They found that the “highest levels of chocolate consumption were associated with a 37% reduction in cardiovascular disease and a 29% 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, in particular because commercially available chocolate is very calorific (around 500 calories for every 100 grams) and eating too much of it could lead to weight gain, risk of diabetes and heart disease. However, they conclude that given the health benefits of eating chocolate, initiatives to reduce the current fat and sugar content in most chocolate products should be explored.