Yummy and healthy? Study finds chocolate lowers risk of heart disease, strokes

Reuters/Thomas Mukoya
A new study has found that chocolate can lower the risk of heart disease and strokes as well as reduce blood pressure and help people suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome, but the results are not definitive.

The research published in the journal Heart Monday used a wide sample of 25,000 volunteers who ate about 15-100 grams of chocolate a day in the form of all types, including dark, milk and hot cocoa.

This is the equivalent to about two Alpen Gold bars or about 500 calories.

"The main message is that you don't need to worry too much if you are only moderately eating chocolate," Phyo Myint, a professor at the School of Medicine at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland and one of the study's lead authors, said in an interview with the Washington Post.

Higher levels of chocolate consumption were also associated with other positive factors, such as a lower BMI, waist:hip ratio, systolic blood pressure and inflammatory proteins.Overall people who ate a lot of chocolate had an 11 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease and a 25 percent lesser risk of associated death as well as a 23 percent lower risk of having a stroke.

Chocolate is packed with flavonoid antioxidants and previous studies have shown that this results in the improved function of the endothelium, the inner lining of the blood vessels.

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The study has also shown chocolate consumption can decrease levels of LDL or “bad” cholesterol while increasing levels of HDL or “good” cholesterol. Many chocolate bars also contain nuts which are also good for a healthy heart.

The researchers also noted that participants in the study ate mainly milk chocolate, whereas dark chocolate has been considered healthier, suggesting that beneficial health effects may apply to both.

"Our results are somewhat surprising since the expectation was that benefits of chocolate consumption would be mainly associated with dark chocolate rather than the commercially available products generally used in a British population which are high in sugar content and fat," the author of the study wrote.

Even with risk factors thrown in like higher alcohol consumption, smoking, low physical activity and age the results of the study were still valid.

However, the Myint warned that the study should be taken with some caution. It only considered 39-70 year olds and mostly all of the participants were white; there were also a fair amount of people who ate a lot of chocolate and did not see any benefits at all.

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The scientists were also unable to say exactly what it is about chocolate that is good for the health and that the benefits could be nothing more than a mirage.

They also cautioned against “reverse causation”, meaning that people who are healthier anyway eat more chocolate whereas people who are at risk of cardiovascular disease eat less.

This is not the first study that has found that chocolate might be good for your health, but most of the others concentrated on dark chocolate.

There was also a fake study released earlier this year that found that chocolate helps weight loss. It was later revealed to be the work of a science journalist to shame media outlets that misreport scientific research.