Chocolate Cake
A British study has found a good case for chocolate preventing heart disease, but that doesn't mean chocolate cake is now health food. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

People who describe themselves as “chocoholics” can rejoice; a British medical study has found that a link may exist between regular chocolate consumption and a lower risk of heart disease. Researchers concluded that regular but moderate chocolate indulgence may be good for the heart.

Lower risk of stroke or diabetes

A study is being published in the British Medical Journal, according to CBS, that suggests a link between chocolate and heart disease. Researchers from the University of Cambridge were investigating previous medical literature to see if a scientific basis existed for chocolate being good for the heart on a larger scale and looked at seven different studies involving more than 100,000 patients. Five of those studies concluded that people who ate the most chocolate had a lower risk of heart attack, diabetes or stroke. According to The Guardian, the study looked at people who ate the most chocolate compared to those who ate none or little. Those who ate the most chocolate had a 37 percent lower risk of heart disease and a 29 percent lower risk of diabetes. They also had, according to ABC, a 31 percent lower risk of stroke.

Indulge in moderation

The study did not address which type of chocolate — white, milk or dark — provided the most health benefits. However, they did issue a caution about the findings. They warn that chocolate, especially sweetened chocolate, contains hefty loads of sugar and fats, so people should only indulge in moderation. Two possible explanations were given for health benefits of chocolate. First, chocolate contains flavanoids, a type of anti-oxidants that are known for potentially increasing arterial blood flow and thus reducing risks of heart disease or stroke, according to WebMD. They also noted that chocolate, like a glass of wine, is a relaxing, de-stressing indulgence that is beneficial in moderation, according to The Guardian. Because most chocolate is high in sugar and has a low concentration of actual cocoa powder, the stress reduction from indulging could have the larger impact.

Still not entirely proven

The authors of the study were quick to point out that a strict causal link between chocolate consumption and lower risk of heart disease was not proven. A physician at Yale University pointed out to ABC that the study only shows that a correlation was “statistically robust.” The study didn’t control for other contributing factors in heart disease but found that regular chocolate eaters, regardless of whether they exercised regularly or smoked, still showed a lower rate of heart disease, diabetes and stroke.  Dr. Oscar Franco, the lead researcher in the study, said that the amount of chocolate eaten per week differed between patients in the study, according to USA Today. He also said that the amount of chocolate required to obtain the benefits is probably not very high. The idea seems to be that a regular but moderate indulgence can be good for a person.





The Guardian:

USA Today:

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