A Little Chocolate Goes a Long Way in Keeping Healthy Heart, Study Finds

More bad news for those battling a sweet tooth: eating chocolate is good for you.

Regular consumption may slash the risk of developing heart disease by a third, according to research published in the British Medical Journal and presented today at the European Society of Cardiology’s conference in Paris.

Oscar Franco and colleagues from the University of Cambridge sought to put studies linking chocolate and heart health to the test, reviewing existing data to establish whether such a link could reliably be claimed. Turns out it can, according to Franco.

The scientists waded through seven studies involving about 114,000 participants. They found, when they pooled results, that people who consumed the most chocolate carried a 37 percent lower risk of developing heart disease and were 29 percent less likely to suffer a stroke than those who ate the least. The researchers found no link between cocoa intake and heart failure.

The studies didn’t distinguish between dark chocolate and sweeter goods like snack bars and cookies.

The findings shouldn’t be used as an excuse to go out and binge, Franco said in a telephone interview. Most chocolate found in stores has a high sugar and fat content and too much of it may lead to weight gain, straining the heart and raising the risk of diabetes, he said.

Cut Sugar and Fat

“You should eat chocolate in a moderate way and in a regular manner,” Franco said. Initiatives to cut the sugar and fat content of commercial chocolate should be explored, he said.

The benefits probably stem from chocolate’s high content in polyphenols, antioxidant compounds that boost the body’s production of nitric oxide, which in turn helps reduce blood pressure, the researchers wrote.

Given chocolate’s popularity, a dietary recommendation to eat it regularly “may suit multiple populations” and help stem heart disease in countries such as Brazil, Ivory Coast and Indonesia where many cacao plantations are located, according to the study’s authors.

To contact the reporter on this story: Albertina Torsoli in Paris at atorsoli@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Phil Serafino at pserafino@bloomberg.net

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