Can eating chocolate lower our risk of heart disease?

16 June 2015        

Chocolate cake New research has linked eating up to 100 grams of chocolate daily with a lower risk of heart disease and stroke. Although it may seem like good news for chocoholics, the findings are not evidence that a chocolate binge is good for your heart.

A team of researchers from universities including the University of Aberdeen and the University of Cambridge followed almost 21,000 adults and found that the more chocolate they ate, the lower their risk of developing heart disease or stroke in the future.

The findings from the study were published in the scientific journal Heart and suggest an association between higher consumption of chocolate and lower cardiovascular disease risk. But the study does not show eating more chocolate causes this reduced risk of heart attack and stroke. The main conclusion to draw from the study, however, is that there is no evidence that not eating chocolate at all is better for our heart health.

Our experts' thoughts 

Our Senior Dietitian, Victoria Taylor, said: "Happy news for chocolate lovers, but not an excuse to start ploughing through a multi-pack. 

"Although a higher consumption of chocolate was associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease we can’t jump to conclusions about cause and effect with this type of study. Other factors in the overall diet and lifestyle patterns of the higher consumers could also have been behind the observed risk reduction.

"We know that the cocoa that chocolate contains can come with compounds that have been associated with heart health benefits. However, the type of chocolate that we eat most of in the UK will also come with plenty of sugar and saturated fat. So while there is no reason why we can’t enjoy a bit of chocolate as part of a balanced diet, it’s probably not a dietary strategy to rely on exclusively to reduce your risk of a heart attack or stroke."

Victoria Taylor answers the question "Is chocolate good for me?" from a Heart Matters reader.

Chocolate won't prevent a heart attack

Our Medical Director, Professor Peter Weissberg, added:

"The results of this large study of the effects of diet on risk of heart disease support the findings of previous smaller studies that eating chocolate seems to protect against cardiovascular disease. 

"However, the results do not mean that people should start eating chocolate in the hope that it will prevent them having a heart attack or a stroke . This is best achieved by eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly and not smoking. But the findings suggest that there is no reason why chocolate should not be a part of that balanced diet."

Intrigued about chocolate?

Heart Matters magazine has looked into some of the myths surrounding the health benefits of chocolate to help you get the facts.

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