Recent research published in the journal Heart suggests that eating up to 100g of chocolate each day is connected to reduced risks for both heart disease and stroke. The study is the latest in a series of studies over the past few years extolling the heath benefits of moderate chocolate consumption.
The findings are supported by data from 21,000 adults who enrolled the EPIC-Norfolk study to assess the impact of diet on the long-term health of 25,000 women and men in Norfolk, England. Data was compiled through lifestyle and food frequency questionnaires. Additionally, a review of the connection between cardiovascular disease and chocolate was also assessed through the EPIC study with over 158,000 participants. EPIC-Norfolk participants included 9,214 men and 11,737 women monitored for 12 years on average. Of these, 14% experienced a fatal or non-fatal episode of stroke or coronary heart disease. Around 20% of participants stated they did not eat chocolate, while the daily consumption of the others was on average 7 grams up to 100 grams daily.
Higher levels of consumption were linked to lower weight and younger age, as well as key indicators of systolic blood pressure, hip ratio, diabetes, inflammatory proteins and more frequent physical activity. Eating more chocolate was also connected to higher energy intake, as well as a diet containing more carbs and fat and less alcohol and protein. In comparison to those who did not consume chocolate, higher intake was associated with an 11% reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and a 25% reduced risk of associated death.The inflammatory protein (CRP) level was assessed in 16,000 people and researchers concluded that those eating more chocolate seemed to have an 18% decreased risk in comparison to those who ate less. The highest level of chocolate intake reported in the study — 100 grams daily — was similarly associated with a 23% lower risk of stroke, even after taking account of other potential risk factors. Further study of the data linked a 25% reduced risk of participants having any kind of episode related to cardiovascular disease and a 45% reduced risk of death.
While the study revealed impressive health benefits for the consumption of chocolate, researchers noted that no definitive conclusions could be made about chocolate and its ability to lower cardiovascular disease risk, since this was only an observational study. “Cumulative evidence suggests that higher chocolate intake is associated with a lower risk of future cardiovascular events,” the researchers explained. They also noted that milk chocolate, considered less “healthy” than dark chocolate, was also included in the beneficial health effects observed in the study.
“This may indicate that not only flavonoids, but also other compounds, possibly related to milk constituents, such as calcium and fatty acids, may provide an explanation for the observed association,” they said. “There does not appear to be any evidence to say that chocolate should be avoided in those who are concerned about cardiovascular risk.”