Chocolate makes for a healthy heart

Posted by Kate Taylor

Scoffing large amounts of chocolate could cut the risk of heart disease by a third, new research suggests.

It's not the first time that a link has been found between chocolate consumption and heart health. It's been suggested that chocolate has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, reducing blood pressure and improving insulin sensitivity.

But the latest University of Cambridge study - a large scale review of the existing evidence - finds that the effect is stronger than many would have believed.

The team analysed the results of seven studies, involving a total of more than 100,000 people, some with existing heart disease and some without.

The studies didn't differentiate between dark or milk chocolate and included consumption of chocolate bars, drinks, biscuits and desserts.

For each study, they compared the group with the highest chocolate consumption against the group with the lowest, taking into account differences in study design and quality to minimise bias, they say.

Five studies reported a link between higher levels of chocolate consumption and a lower risk of cardiovascular events. 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', they say.

There didn't seem to be any link between chocolate and heart failure, says the team.

The authors point out that the findings need to be interpreted with caution, in particular because commercially available chocolate is highly calorific - around 500 calories for every 100 grams. If eating it leads to weight gain, there's a risk of diabetes and heart disease.

It might be a good idea, they say, to try and cut the fat and sugar content of chocolate products.