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Chocolate Heart?

Chocolate Helps Keep Heart’s Blood Vessels Healthy, Review Suggests

A new systematic review and meta-analysis of previous studies suggests that the consumption of chocolates at least once a week is associated with a reduction in the risk of coronary artery disease.

Krittanawong et al found that chocolate consumption (1 time per week or 3.5 times per month) is associated with a reduced risk of coronary artery disease. Image credit: Sci-News.com.

Krittanawong et al found that chocolate consumption (1 time per week or 3.5 times per month) is associated with a reduced risk of coronary artery disease. Image credit: Sci-News.com.

Clinical trials have shown that the consumption of chocolate has favorable effects on blood pressure and endothelial function.

The previous review studies showed that many dietary components, including chocolate, appear to be beneficial for cardiovascular disease.

However, the potential benefit of increased chocolate consumption, reducing the risk of coronary artery disease is not known.

Baylor College of Medicine’s Dr. Chayakrit Krittanawong and colleagues aimed to explore the association between chocolate consumption and coronary artery disease.

“In the past, clinical studies have shown that chocolate is beneficial for both blood pressure and the lining of blood vessels,” Dr. Krittanawong said.

“We wanted to see if it affects the blood vessels supplying the heart — the coronary arteries — or not. And if it does, is it beneficial or harmful?”

The researchers identified six prospective studies with a total of 336,289 participants (266,264 individuals from the United States, 68,809 from Sweden and 1,216 from Australia) who reported their chocolate consumption.

During a median follow-up of 8.78 years, 14,043 participants developed coronary artery disease, 4,667 had myocardial infarctions, 2,735 had cerebrovascular accidents and 332 had heart failure.

Compared with consuming chocolate less than once a week, eating chocolate more than once a week was associated with an 8% decreased risk of coronary artery disease.

“Chocolate contains heart healthy nutrients such as flavonoids, methylxanthines, polyphenols and stearic acid which may reduce inflammation and increase good cholesterol,” Dr. Krittanawong said.

“We did not examine whether any particular type of chocolate is more beneficial and whether there is an ideal portion size.”

“Chocolate appears promising for prevention of coronary artery disease, but more research is needed to pinpoint how much and what kind of chocolate could be recommended.”

While it’s not clear how much chocolate is optimal, the authors warn against overeating.

“Moderate amounts of chocolate seem to protect the coronary arteries but it’s likely that large quantities do not,” Dr. Krittanawong said.

“The calories, sugar, milk, and fat in commercially available products need to be considered, particularly in diabetics and obese people.”

The results were published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.

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C. Krittanawong et al. Association between chocolate consumption and risk of coronary artery disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis. European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, published online July 22, 2020; doi: 10.1177/2047487320936787

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