Eating Chocolate May Lower Your Risk of Heart Attack and Stroke

Eating Chocolate May Lower Your Risk of Heart Attack and Stroke

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Title: Habitual chocolate consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease among healthy men and women

Author: Kwok et al

Journal: Heart (10.1136/heartjnl-2014-307050)

Objective: To examine the association between chocolate intake and the risk of future cardiovascular events.

Background

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Chocolate, and it’s base components, namely cocoa, have been researched for their potential health benefits. One component of these food products, specifically something called flavonoids, are a class of molecules that have been identified as a probable cause for many of these potential benefits.

In addition to other potential benefits, including acting as an anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer agent they have been investigated for their role in reducing risk of cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack and stroke. Research has looked at risk of forming blood clots, clogged arteries (atherosclerosis), high blood pressure (hypertension), oxidative stress, inflammatory markers, cholesterol levels (hyperlipidemia) and regulation of glucose and carbohydrate metabolism.

Unfortunately, the evidence is somewhat mixed and this is likely due in large part to the limited number of studies and the relatively small scale of many of them. The authors of this study sought to expand on this data, specifically looking at the association between chocolate intake and risk of cardiovascular events.

Methods

They used data from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer (EPIC)-Norfolk cohort.

Chocolate intake habits were quantified using a food frequency questionnaire (1993–1997) and cardiovascular events were were tracked until March 2008.

They also conducted a systematic review (which is similar to a meta analysis) to evaluate the larger landscape of chocolate consumption and cardiovascular outcomes

Results

20,951 men and women were included with an average follow-up of about 11 years.

There was no difference in risk of coronary heart disease between the chocolate consumers and non-chocolate consumers (HR  0.88, 95% CI 0.77 to 1.01).

However, the risk of stroke was 23% lower (HR 0.77, 95% CI 0.62 to 0.97) and the risk of total cardiovascular disease was 14%  lower (HR 0.86, 95% CI 0.76 to 0.97) in chocolate consumers when compared to non-consumers.

The systematic review included nine studies with 157 809 participants. Their findings from that were as follows:

Higher chocolate intake (compared to lower chocolate consumption) was associated with:

  • 29% lower coronary heart disease risk (five studies; pooled RR 0.71, 95% CI 0.56 to 0.92),
  • 21% lower stroke risk (five studies; pooled RR 0.79, 95% CI 0.70 to 0.87),
  • 25% lower composite cardiovascular adverse outcome which is not statistically significant but only included two studies(pooled RR 0.75, 95% CI 0.54 to 1.05)
  • and 45% lower cardiovascular mortality (three studies; pooled RR 0.55, 95% CI 0.36 to 0.83).

Conclusions

The evidence suggests higher chocolate intake is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular events, including heart attacks and strokes.

The study suggests that folks concerned about cardiovascular disease do not need to cut their intake of chocolate.

I will point out that this study does not distinguish between milk chocolate and dark chocolate and dark chocolate is generally considered to be the healthier of the two.

Original Article

Kwok, C. S., Boekholdt, S. M., & Lentjes, M. A. (2015). Habitual chocolate consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease among healthy men and women. Heart, 101(16), 1279-1287. doi:10.1136/heartjnl-2014-307050

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