Eating chocolate may reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke by about one-third, a new study says.
The findings might sound a little familiar. A number of recent studies have shown that eating chocolate has a positive influence on human health. It's been shown to reduce blood pressure and improving insulin sensitivity (insensitivity can be an early sign of diabetes). But its effect on heart disease and stroke risk was less clear, the researchers said.
However, the new results are not an excuse to gorge. A lot of chocolate that's sold in stores is packed with calories. Eating too much of it could, in itself, lead to weight gain, diabetes or heart disease.
The researchers concluded that, given the health benefits of eating chocolate, initiatives to reduce the fat and sugar content of most chocolate products should be explored.
Oscar Franco, of the University of Cambridge in England, and colleagues analyzed the results of seven studies, involving over 100,000 participants with and without existing heart disease. For each study, they compared the people with the highest chocolate consumption against those with the lowest consumption.
Five studies reported that higher levels of chocolate consumption were linked to a lower risk of heart disease.
And the "highest levels of chocolate consumption were associated with a 37 percent reduction in cardiovascular disease and a 29 percent reduction in stroke compared with lowest levels," the researchers said. No significant reduction was found in risk of heart failure.
The studies did not distinguish between dark or milk chocolate, and included consumption of chocolate bars, drinks, biscuits and desserts. However, less processed, or darker chocolates, will tend to have higher levels of antioxidants, which are the compounds in chocolate that are thought to provide health benefits, the researchers said.
The researchers said that further studies are now needed to test whether chocolate actually causes this risk reduction, or if it can be explained by some other unmeasured factor.
The findings will be presented today (Aug. 29) at the European Society of Cardiology Congress in Paris.
Pass it on: Chocolate may reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.