A new health study offers what is sure to be everyone’s favorite health tip. The research, published in the BMJ journal Heart, says you can lower the risk of heart disease and stroke by eating 100 grams of chocolate daily. This study builds upon and supports existing data from previous research.
The study tracked 25,000 adult participants in Norfolk, England. It examined the long-term health of participants based on questionnaires that surveyed food and lifestyle choices. The researchers also reviewed globally published evidence on the links between chocolate and cardiovascular health; this evidence covered 158,000 participants in total. During the 12 years the Norfolk participants were followed, 14 percent experienced fatal or non-fatal coronary heart disease or stroke. Twenty percent did not eat chocolate.
The study found participants who consumed higher amounts of chocolate appeared younger and had healthier body weights. They had a healthier waist to hip ratio, had better blood pressure readings, and were more physically active. The majority of the heavy consumers of chocolate did not become diabetic, and had lower inflammatory markers. They also consumed less protein and alcohol.
The researchers found participants who ate chocolate had an 11 percent lower likelihood of cardiovascular disease, and were 25 percent less likely to die from cardiovascular causes. They were nine percent less likely to be admitted to the hospital or to expire from heart disease. Among the 16,000 participants whose inflammatory protein markers were recorded, it was found those who ate more chocolate were 18 percent less likely to have strokes, after adjusting for other potential risk factors.
Of nine relevant studies included in the review, five assessed stroke and coronary heart disease. These proved the benefit of chocolate. Overall, chocolate was associated with a 25 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease and a 45 percent lower risk of death from stroke.
It is important to note this was an observational study, so absolute conclusions about cause and effect cannot be claimed. However, there is cumulative evidence that consumption of chocolate is linked to better heart health. The Norwalk study focused on milk chocolate, but dark chocolate is often rated even healthier. Chocolate also lowers cholesterol, reduces memory loss, lowers stress and protects against sun damage.