Eating Chocolate Linked to Lower Stroke Risk and Heart Disease

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Consuming a moderate amount of chocolate every day has been linked to a lower risk of stroke and heart disease.

Experts from the University of Aberdeen looked at the eating habits of more than 20,000 elderly and middle-aged participants.

The results showed that people who ate up to a small bar of chocolate per day had a 23 percent lesser risk of stroke and an 11 percent reduced risk of cardiovascular disease compared to those who ate no chocolate at all.

But the conductors of the study warned that this is not proof that chocolate makes you healthier.

The findings are published in the British Medical Journal’s “Heart” magazine. They were based on information from the EPIC-Norfolk study which tracks the impact of people’s diets on their long-term health. There are 25,000 male and female participants from Norfolk involved.

The Aberdeen researchers also conducted a review of evidence previously published on the links between cardiovascular disease and chocolate.

Professor Phyo Myint from the University of Aberdeen’s School of Medicine & Dentistry told reporters that as it’s an observational study, the cause and effect relationship cannot be implied.

He said the researchers observed the association between habitual chocolate consumption (max. 100g per day) linked to a reduction in cardiovascular disease and stroke incidence over a long-term follow up.

Around 20 percent of the participants said they didn’t consume any chocolate, but among the others, the daily consumption averaged at 7g, with some people eating up to 100g.

The people that ate the most chocolate tended to be younger, carry out regular physical exercise, have a lower waist-to-hip ratio, blood pressure and weight and were less likely to be diabetic. All of these factors add up to a favourable profile for cardiovascular disease according to researchers.

Consuming more chocolate was also associated with a higher intake of energy and a diet containing more carbohydrates and fat and less alcohol and protein.

The researchers carried out calculations that suggested higher intake compared to those who ate no chocolate was linked to an 11 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease and a 25 percent reduced risk of death associated with it.

After taking into account dietary factors, eating more chocolate was also associated with a 9 percent lower risk of deaths or hospital admissions as a result of coronary heart disease.

Similarly, even after taking into account other potential risk factors, the highest chocolate intake was associated with a 23 percent lower risk of stroke.

Authors of the study pointed out that although dark chocolate is often said to be more beneficial than milk chocolate, the Norfolk participants ate milk chocolate more frequently.

Professor Myint said that chocolate is rich in carbohydrates and fat so it’s important to burn off the calories after eating it.

He said the group showing a benefit ate between 16-100g of chocolate a day. Most of these probably ate about 100g a week rather than a day and the results shown are group effects, so it can’t be said with certainty that eating 100g a day will have health benefits.