Chocolate and Heart Health: Is There a Connection?
Blood vessel function improved significantly, regardless of the amount of chocolate consumed
Dozens of headlines have proclaimed the health benefits of chocolate. But does it really measure up? A report published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition pooled studies to get the "low down" on chocolate's effects on cardiovascular health and found that chocolate does indeed have many heart health benefits, including a few unexpected ones.
Researchers from the UK, Australia, and the US reviewed hundreds of studies on chocolate and cardiovascular health. They narrowed their analysis to 42 higher quality studies that included a total of 1,297 people. The goal was to highlight any reductions in heart disease risk from chocolate, cocoa, or a type of bioflavonoid found in chocolate (flavan-3-ols).
After selecting the studies, the team looked at the effects of chocolate on these measures of heart-disease risk:
All of the studies included in the analysis may have been biased, some because they were funded by the chocolate industry, and others because of less-than-perfect research methods. However, a few common threads were seen throughout.
Think before you snack
The review confirmed much of what was thought to be true about chocolate's effects on heart health. It lowers blood pressure, improves insulin sensitivity, and improves flow-mediated dilation. But there are other ways to get these same great benefits, without the fat and sugar that often go with chocolate and which present other risks, such as weight gain. Here a just a few.
(Am J Clin Nutr 2012;doi: 10.3945/ajcn.111.023457)
Kimberly Beauchamp, ND, received her doctoral degree from Bastyr University, the nation's premier academic institution for science-based natural medicine. She co-founded South County Naturopaths in Wakefield, RI, where she practiced whole family care with an emphasis on nutritional counseling, herbal medicine, detoxification, and food allergy identification and treatment. Her blog, Eat Happy, helps take the drama out of healthy eating with real food recipes and nutrition news that you can use. Dr. Beauchamp is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.