What Chocolate Could Do for Your Ticker

Chocolate, including milk chocolate, tied to decreased heart disease and stroke risk

(RxWiki News) It's always nice to find out something that tastes delicious may also be good for you.

A new study found that a daily dose of chocolate was tied to a lower risk of heart disease and stroke. One new finding was that even milk chocolate appeared to lower these risks. Past research found that milk chocolate was not as beneficial as dark chocolate.

"There does not appear to be any evidence to say that chocolate should be avoided in those who are concerned about cardiovascular risk," wrote the authors of this study.

Drs. Chun Shing Kwok, of the School of Medicine & Dentistry at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, and S. Matthijs Boekholdt, of the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam, led this research.

Drs. Shing Kwok, Boekholdt and colleagues obtained their data from two sources. The first was the EPIC-Norfolk study, a long-term health study of 25,000 men and women in Norfolk, England.

In addition, these researchers analyzed all available published work on the links between chocolate and heart disease. The second data source included the EPIC patients and others — almost 158,000 people.

Chocolate intake in the combined groups varied from none to 100 grams a day — about 3.5 ounces. The average daily intake was 7 grams, or a little under one-third of an ounce.

About 20 percent of the study patients said they did not eat chocolate.

People who ate more chocolate tended to be younger and to weigh less than those who ate no chocolate. They also had lower blood pressure and were less likely to have diabetes.

Those who chowed down on chocolate were also more likely to be active.

Overall, chocolate intake was tied to a 25 percent lower risk of heart disease and a 45 percent lower risk of heart-related death, compared to those who didn't eat chocolate.

Even after taking into account other risk factors like smoking or high blood pressure, Drs. Shing Kwok, Boekholdt and colleagues found that the highest chocolate intake was tied to a 23 percent lower risk of stroke.

These researchers cautioned that this was an observational study. That means that they found links between chocolate, heart disease and stroke. It does not, however, conclusively prove that eating more chocolate causes a lower risk of heart disease or stroke. For instance, it could mean that people who eat more chocolate tend to be healthier overall, while those who have a higher risk of heart disease tend to avoid chocolate.

However, these researchers noted in their study, "Cumulative evidence suggests that higher chocolate intake is associated with a lower risk of future cardiovascular events."

Because milk chocolate was also found to lower heart disease risks, these researchers suggested, "This may indicate that not only flavonoids [compounds found in high concentrations in dark chocolate], but also other compounds, possibly related to milk constituents, such as calcium and fatty acids, may provide an explanation for the observed association.”

This study was published in the June issue of the journal Heart.

The EPIC-Norfolk study was funded by the Medical Research Council and Cancer Research UK. The authors of the current study disclosed no conflicts of interest.


Review Date: 
June 16, 2015