- Eating chocolate once a week may be linked to a healthier heart and lower risk of coronary artery disease, according to a new meta-analysis.
- Chocolate contains micronutrients like flavanols and polyphenols that can protect your heart by keeping veins and arteries healthy, research suggests.
- The study did not say what kind of chocolate is best, how much or little to eat, and whether other lifestyle factors may have influenced this data.
There’s even more evidence that chocolate, enjoyed by many people worldwide, may actually have some health benefits, particularly for your heart, according to a new study published July 22 in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.
Researchers from several medical institutions, including the Mayo and Cleveland Clinics, looked at 6 studies on chocolate-eating and heart health, comprising 336,289 international participants, to see if there was a significant link between chocolate and coronary artery disease.
The study found that people who reported eating chocolate at least once a week had a lower risk of coronary artery disease, compared to people who rarely ate chocolate or didn’t at all.
They did not measure how much chocolate to eat to harness the apparent benefits, but the authors said “it’s likely that large quantities do not” have the desired effect on health health.
Researchers theorize that compounds in chocolate like polyphenols and flavanols can improve some measures of heart health by reducing inflammation and increasing the level of HDL or “good” cholesterol in our blood.
This supports previous evidence that chocolate can be beneficial to our health, improving blood pressure and other cardiovascular factors.
Will any chocolate do?
The studies did not differentiate between types of chocolate (white, dark, and milk). Currently, evidence suggests that dark chocolate, with its high levels of polyphenols and lower sugar and fat content, may be best for health.
The current study also didn’t measure amount of chocolate participants ate, the fat, calories, and sugar that many commercial chocolate bars and candies are packed with. Too much sugar, some types of fats, and excess calorie consumption are all linked to higher risk of heart disease and other chronic illness, so whatever the benefits of chocolate, moderation is likely to be key.
“Moderate amounts of chocolate seem to protect the coronary arteries but it’s likely that large quantities do not. The calories, sugar, milk, and fat in commercially available products need to be considered, particularly in diabetics and obese people,” Dr. Chayakrit Krittanawong, co-author of the study and physician at Baylor College of Medicine, said in a press release.
Chocolate probably isn’t a silver bullet for heart health
The research isn’t clear about whether chocolate alone can boost heart health, and what other variables are involved.
The study didn’t account for differences in exercise habits, which could have influenced people’s health more than their snacks.
Geographic location could also be a factor. Some of the most chocolate-loving people in the world live in European nations like Switzerland, which have very different health and fitness habits to the US.