Link Found Between Chocolate Consumption and Lower Risk for Heart Disease

Cocoa products contain flavonol, which is known to prevent cardio-metabolic disorders. Many observational and experimental studies have confirmed this link between cocoa and cardio-metabolic health. A review of published literature shows that high chocolate consumption is associated with about 37 percent decrease in the risk of cardiovascular diseases and a 29 percent decrease in the risk of stroke. However, commercial chocolates are full of calories and their overconsumption should be avoided.

Cardiovascular diseases such as myocardial infarction are assuming pandemic proportions. The World Health Organization predicts that by 2030, nearly 23.6 million people will die from cardiovascular disorders. In addition, 20 percent of the adult population is predicted to suffer from metabolic syndrome, which increases the risk of developing type-2 diabetes as well as cardiovascular diseases. Since this will exert a severe strain on the healthcare system as well as society, preventive measures to tackle these disorders are of primary importance. Being a life-style factor, diet can be easily monitored and modified. Cocoa products contain flavonol, and so, have a beneficial effect on human health. The flavonols protect against blockage of arteries, and are anti-hypertensive. The current study was aimed at establishing the association between the intake of chocolate and the risk of developing diseases such as stroke, heart failure, myocardial infarction, diabetes and metabolic syndrome. The authors reviewed previously published studies for this purpose.

Online databases such as Medline, Embase, the Cochrane Library, and Scopus were used to find research publications mentioning keywords such as cocoa and cardiovascular diseases. Two independent reviewers evaluated all the obtained publications and rated their quality. The publications rated four and above (out of a maximum rating of six) were included for analysis. The effect of low and high consumption of chocolate on various outcomes such as diabetes, incidence of cardiovascular disease, death due to these diseases, incidence of stroke, and deaths from stroke were determined by statistical analysis.  The researchers initially identified 4,576 relevant references. From these, seven eligible studies representing 114,009 participants were included for statistical analysis. Participants’ age ranged from 25 to 93 years; most of the participants were white, one study also included Hispanic and African-American people, and another one studied an Asian population. Four studies included men and women, two included only women, and one included only men.

Results/Key findings
* Of the seven studies, five showed a significant benefit of chocolate consumption. Out of 13 different measures used to assess the risk of cardio-metabolic disorders, 12 (92 percent) reported a beneficial effect of higher chocolate consumption.
* High chocolate consumption was associated with a 37 percent decrease in the risk of cardio-metabolic disorders and a 29 percent decrease in the case of stroke.
* No significant association was observed between high chocolate consumption and heart failure. However, in a Japanese study, a beneficial association was found between high chocolate consumption and reduction in the risk of developing diabetes.

Next steps/Shortcomings
The analysis did not include any study based on randomized double-blind trials on high consumption of chocolate and risk of cardiovascular disease. Most of the observational studies have biases such as self-reporting by the participants. In addition, the studies were from Europe and North America and so, a generalization of the results might be erroneous.

The present review of seven previously published studies indicates that high chocolate consumption is associated with about 37 percent reduction in the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases. This association was computed after adjusting for other factors such as smoking. Commercial preparations of chocolate are high in calories as they contain sugars and fats. Overconsumption of commercial chocolates can cause weight gain and it actually adds to the risk of cardiovascular diseases. The authors of this study conclude that although a high consumption of chocolate is associated with a decrease in cardio-metabolic disorders based on observational studies, more evidence from experimental studies is required to confirm this association.

For More Information:
Chocolate Consumption and Cardiometabolic Disorders: Systematic Review and Meta-analysis
Publication Journal: British Medical Journal, 2011
Adriana Buitrago-Lopez; Jean Sanderson; University of Cambridge, England

Tags from the story

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *