Eating chocolate ‘could lower stroke risk’

Photo: Philip Toscano/PA Wire.
Photo: Philip Toscano/PA Wire.

​A new report has found that eating up to 100g (4oz) of ​​chocolate a day has been linked to a lowered risk of heart disease and stroke.

Research led by the University of Aberdeen found that compared to people who ate no ​​chocolate, those with a higher intake had an 11% lesser risk of cardiovascular disease and a 25% reduced risk of associated death.

The message I take from this study is that if you are a healthy weight, then eating​ ​​​​​chocolate (in moderation) does not detectibly increase risk of heart disease and may even have some benefit.

Dr Tim Chico

It was also linked with a 9% lower risk of hospital admission or death as a result of coronary heart disease, while it was similarly associated with a 23% reduced risk of stroke, even after taking account of other factors.

The study, which came from analysis of almost 21,000 adults taking part in the EPIC-Norfolk study, which is tracking the impact of diet on the long-term health of 25,000 men and women in Norfolk, concluded that there is no evidence for cutting out ​​​​chocolate to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Around one in five (20%) participants said they did not eat any ​​​​chocolate but among those that did, daily consumption averaged 7g (0.25oz) with some eating up to 100g.

Those who ate the most also tended to be younger, have a lower weight, waist to hip ratio, and blood pressure, and were less likely to have diabetes and more likely to carry out regular physical activity - all of which add up to a favourable cardiovascular disease risk profile, researchers said.

Eating more ​​​​chocolate was also associated with higher energy intake and a diet containing more fat and carbohydrates and less protein and alcohol.

The study authors pointed out that dark ​​​​chocolate is usually said to have more beneficial effects than milk ​​chocolate, but milk ​​​​chocolate was more frequently eaten by the Norfolk participants.

Professor Phyo Myint, of the School of Medicine & Dentistry at the University of Aberdeen, said: “Our study concludes that cumulative evidence suggests higher ​​​​chocolate intake is associated with a lower risk of future cardiovascular events.”

Dr Tim Chico, reader in cardiovascular medicine and consultant cardiologist at the University of Sheffield, said: “This study adds to the evidence that people who consume​ ​​​​​chocolate tend to have lower rates of cardiovascular disease, although such studies cannot say whether the ​​​​chocolate is the cause of this protective effect.

“There is evidence from other studies that have randomised people to be given ​​chocolate​ ​that this can have effects that might reduce cardiovascular disease, such as a reduction in blood pressure.

​“​These studies taken together suggest that there might be some health benefits from eating ​​chocolate.

​“​However, it is also clear that ​​​​chocolate has the potential to increase weight, which is unequivocally bad for cardiovascular health.

“The message I take from this study is that if you are a healthy weight, then eating​ ​​​​​chocolate (in moderation) does not detectibly increase risk of heart disease and may even have some benefit. I would not advise my patients to increase their ​​chocolate​ ​intake based on this research, particularly if they are overweight.”

The study is published online in the journal Heart.