In a presentation at the European Society of Cardiology (ESC), August 2011 Congress, British investigators are reporting that individuals who ate the most chocolate had a 37% lower risk of cardiovascular disease and a 29% lower risk of stroke compared with individuals who ate the least amount of chocolate.
In the study, published online August 29, 2011 in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) to coincide with the ESC presentation, Dr Adriana Buitrago-Lopez (University of Cambridge, UK) and colleagues state: “Although over consumption can have harmful effects, the existing studies generally agree on a potential beneficial association of chocolate consumption with a lower risk of cardio-metabolic disorders. Our findings confirm this, and we found that higher levels of chocolate consumption might be associated with a one-third reduction in the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.”
In this meta-analysis of six cohort studies and one cross-sectional study, overall chocolate consumption was reported. Chocolate in any form was included, such as chocolate bars, chocolate drinks, and chocolate snacks, such as confectionary, biscuits, desserts, and nutritional supplements. Chocolate consumption was reported differently in the trials but ranged from never to more than once per day. Most patients included in the trials were white, although one study included Hispanic and African Americans and one study included Asian patients.
Overall, the pooled meta-analysis results showed that high levels of chocolate consumption compared with the lowest levels of chocolate consumption reduced the risk of any cardiovascular disease 37% (RR 0.63; 0.44-0.90) and stroke 29% (RR 0.71; 0.52-0.98). There was no association between chocolate consumption and the risk of heart failure, and no association on the incidence of diabetes in women.
Buitrago-Lopez and colleagues concluded that these favorable effects seem mainly mediated by the high content of polyphenols present in cocoa products and are probably accrued through the increasing bioavailability of nitric oxide, which subsequently might lead to improvements in endothelial function, reductions in platelet function, and additional beneficial effects on blood pressure, insulin resistance, and blood lipids.