Eating chocolate can slash risk of heart disease, stroke
London: Eating up to 100 g of milk chocolate or dark chocolate every day is linked to lowered heart disease and stroke risk, a new study has claimed.
Researchers found that compared with those who ate no chocolate higher intake was linked to an 11 per cent lower risk of cardiovascular disease and a 25 per cent lower risk of associated death.
The findings are based on almost 21,000 adults taking part in the EPIC-Norfolk study, which is tracking the impact of diet on the long term health of 25,000 men and women in Norfolk, England, using food frequency and lifestyle questionnaires.
The researchers also carried out a systematic review of the available international published evidence on the links between chocolate and cardiovascular disease, involving almost 158,000 people – including the EPIC study participants.
The EPIC-Norfolk participants (9,214 men and 11,737 women) were monitored for an average of almost 12 years, during which time 3,013 (14 per cent) people experienced either an episode of fatal or non-fatal coronary heart disease or stroke.
Higher levels of chocolate consumption were associated with younger age and lower weight (BMI), waist to hip ratio, systolic blood pressure, inflammatory proteins, diabetes and more regular physical activity – all of which add up to a favourable cardiovascular disease risk profile.
Eating chocolate was also associated with a 9 per cent lower risk of hospital admission or death as a result of coronary heart disease.
Eating more chocolate was also associated with higher energy intake and a diet containing more fat and carbs and less protein and alcohol.
Among the 16,000 people whose inflammatory protein (CRP) level had been measured, those eating the most chocolate seemed to have an 18 per cent lower risk than those who ate the least.
The highest chocolate intake was similarly associated with a 23 per cent lower risk of stroke.
Of nine relevant studies included in the systematic review, five studies each assessed coronary heart disease and stroke outcome, and they found a significantly lower risk of both conditions associated with regular chocolate consumption.
It was linked to a 25 per cent lower risk of any episode of cardiovascular disease and a 45 per cent lower risk of associated death.
This is an observational study so no definitive conclusions about cause and effect can be drawn, researchers cautioned.
Reverse causation – whereby those with a higher cardiovascular disease risk profile eat less chocolate and foods containing it than those who are healthier – may also help to explain the results, they said.
They pointed out that as milk chocolate, which is considered to be less ‘healthy’ than dark chocolate, was more frequently eaten by the EPIC-Norfolk participants, the beneficial health effects may extend to this type of chocolate