In recent years, changes in diet as well as additional life stresses has resulted in an increase in the number of people who are affected with cardiovascular disease, and are dying from heart attacks and strokes. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has predicted that by 2030, 23.6 million people will die from heart disease. Research continues into ways in which heart health may be improved, and many people will be overjoyed at the fact that eating chocolate may be one of these.
The British Medical Journal – Expanding the Theory
There are many observational studies that have been done which involve chocolate consumption. Participants in these have answered questions about their health and eating habits, specifically about the amount and type of chocolate they consume. Statistical connections are then made based on the answers which are received. Many of these studies have shown that those that eat less chocolate often have a higher average weight, were less active, and more likely to develop diabetes.
To observe a wider range of subjects, researchers from the University of Cambridge collected data from seven studies which had a total of over 100,000 people involved. Their data collection compared those with the highest level of chocolate consumption (more than 3.5 ounces of chocolate daily) and those with the lowest. There was no limit to the type of chocolate ingested and included drinks, biscuits and desserts.
Results were remarkable, showing that high levels of chocolate consumption caused a 37% reduction in cardiovascular disease and a 29% reduction in stroke. The consensus was that eating more chocolate boosts heart health by about a third.
Why is Chocolate Beneficial for the Heart?
Chocolate has both high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which has a positive effect on our health. These benefit us by helping our system produce insulin, as well as reduce blood pressure. Previously it had been thought that dark chocolate was the only type with these health benefits, but this study found that other types may also provide them.
There is no certainty why chocolate is beneficial for the heart, but scientists have speculated that it is a result of the flavonoids found in the sweet treat. Flavonoids are antioxidants which are also found in tea, red wine, apples, pears, cherries, blueberries and nuts. They appear in large quantities in the cacao seed, which is fermented, dried and roasted to make chocolate. Flavonoids can lower blood pressure, prevent blood clots, improve blood circulation to the heart and brain as well as increase our cognitive function.
Despite these promising results, researchers have suggested that eating chocolate should still be done cautiously, as many of the products are made with high levels of sugar in them. Dark chocolate has up to 70% pure cacao and still remains the best option.