New research finds that people who eat up to 100g of chocolate per day have a lower risk of heart disease and stroke than people who eat none. They are also less likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
It should be stressed that the study, which was conducted at the University of Aberdee, only discovered a correlation. In other words, the researchers observed that people who ate more chocolate had a lower risk of heart disease and stroke, but that does not necessarily mean that eating chocolate is the direct cause.
How was the study conducted?
The researchers recruited 21,000 adults in Norfolk in the 1990s. Each participant was asked how much chocolate they consumed in a day. They were then followed for as long as 12 years, and their heart health was monitored.
20 per cent of respondents claimed never to eat chocolate. The other 80 per cent, who did admit to eating chocolate, ate between seven grams and 100g per day. Compared to the non-chocolate eaters, the chocolate eating participants tended to:
Be younger
Have a lower BMI
Fewer instances of type 2 diabetes
Take part in more exercise
Eat more calories, fat, carbohydrates, and protein
Consume more alcohol
And yet, the chocolate eating group had an 11 per cent reduced risk of heart disease, and a 25 per cent lower risk of dying young.
Whether the participants ate dark chocolate or milk chocolate made no difference. However, people with diabetes are advised to stick to dark chocolate, due to the undesirable effects of milk chocolate on blood glucose levels.
The limitations of the study
The study should certainly not be interpreted as a reason to eat huge amounts of chocolate every day. The researchers only found a correlative link between chocolate consumption and lower risk of heart disease, not a causational one.
The real reason for the lower risk of heart disease could have been attributable to other factors, such as the fact that the chocolate eating group was younger and engaged in more exercise.
It is also possible that the first group avoided chocolate because they were already at risk of heart disease. If so, it is likely that this group would have more instances of heart disease.
So what is the message of the study?
Rather than suggesting that eating lots of chocolate is good for your heart, the study indicates that eating chocolate when already healthy carries no health threat. For otherwise healthy people with diabetes – both type 1 and type 2 – who are worried about their risk of heart disease, the research suggests that eating chocolate probably won’t increase heart disease risk.
The study was published in the journal Heart.

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