This British study was based on almost 21000 adults who took part in the EPIC-Norfolk study, which is tracking the impact of diet on health in Norfolk, UK. The researchers also did a systematic review (collation of all known published papers on a subject with specific criteria) of studies conducted on links between chocolate and cardiovascular disease, which totals the studied humans to 158,000. So this is a significant study.
The results showed that eating chocolate lowered the risk of heart disease by 11% and a whopping 23% for stroke. However, before we get too excited, observational studies cannot prove cause and effect – that is, they cannot definitively say “yes, it is chocolate that is having this effect” because there are a lot of limitations to these types of studies.
Throwing in the systematic review does add weight however! So all in all, chocolate does not have to be avoided to lower risk of stroke or heart attack.
Without wanting to be a killjoy, I don’t think stocking up the larder on 100g packs of chocolate is really a good idea. You have to realise that an average 100g bar is around 500kcal and often a lot more!! And so this can significantly add to your daily caloric intake, and unless you’re very active, you’ll soon put on weight!
Not only that, read the news release again. It says “higher levels of consumption were associated with younger age and lower weight, waist:hip ratio, blood pressure..” also, no diabetes and they engaged in more regular physical activity. This is all going to have an impact on their risk profile, so the chocolate?? Maybe it has an added effect, but in isolation? So some caution is required.
So, why not simply have a little of very dark chocolate to get the best of the protective nutrients and remember that a balanced diet is one that includes all the food groups: whole grains, fruit, vegetables, fish, some dairy, nuts and seeds, and pulses – and yes, a little bit of dark chocolate too!! I usually suggest around 25g per day. And, I’m sorry but – it also means physical activity too! Around 150minutes of moderate exercise a week will help keep you healthy.
Enjoy your chocolate!
Seb is a writer and blogger of food and nutrition. He holds a bachelors and a masters degree in nutrition science, and has studied sports and exercise nutrition at postgraduate level. He specialises in plant-based nutrition and believes passionately that we can all live with a little less meat. He writes for www.veggieandspice.com and www.itsaboutnutrition.com