Can it possibly be so? Eating one of your favorite things on earth can actually help ward off heart disease? Published in the BMJ, a recent study comprising of over 114,000 participants showed that people who consumed the highest levels of chocolate were associated with a 37% reduction in cardiovascular disease and a 29% lowered risk in strokes compared to patients who ate lower amounts of chocolate. However, before you head out to purchase all the bags of chocolate you can find, there are other factors to consider.
According to the new research shown in BBC.co.uk, chocolate has been known to decrease blood pressure and while findings hold promise, it will require further research to confirm any protective effect consuming chocolate may offer. Unfortunately, one of the negative aspects of consuming higher levels of chocolate could be weight gain and other diseases such as Type 2 diabetes. The study suggest that chocolate may be one day be beneficial to preventing heart disease and stroke but only if sugar and fat content could be managed.
Other studies have suggested that regularly consuming a small portion of dark chocolate could help with heart disease without additional weight gain and increased danger from diseases such as diabetes. Experts recommend consuming no more than 1 oz of dark chocolate per week and the darker, the better. As reported in The New York Times, the best type of chocolate is made from 70% or more of pure cacao.
Milk chocolate or white chocolate are lower in cacao levels so these may actually do more harm that good. Higher levels of cacao found in dark chocolate may contain more antioxidants called flavonoids, which is what researchers speculate aids heart health. Originally published in the journal Circulation, the study showed that women who ate 1-2 servings of dark chocolate a month had 32% less cases of heart failure vs. women who did not eat chocolate. In addition, the study also suggested there were no health benefits for women who ate chocolate on a daily basis.
There are many other foods that are flavonoid-rich (many darkly pigmented fruits and vegetables have plenty of flavonoids) so we recommend adding these to your diet before reaching for chocolate - at least, for the time being. Although these recent studies concerning chocolate and heart health are suggestive, it may be too early to assume that eating chocolate has health benefits that outweigh negative effects. But if you absolutely cannot help yourself, remember to find chocolate with the highest amount of cacao to reap the most health benefits possible!