dark chocolate prevents coronary heart disease, stroke and diabetes

One of our favourite topics to write about on The Natural Path blog is the too-good-to-be-true mountain of evidence that eating dark chocolate is actually great for your health. Most recently, we wrote about a meta-analysis that confirmed that eating dark chocolate is great for fighting heart disease and diabetes. Now a new meta-analysis has added even more evidence. . . .

This new meta-analysis focused on the effect of eating chocolate on coronary heart disease (CHD), stroke, and diabetes. Coronary heart disease refers to the narrowing of the small blood vessels that supply blood and oxygen to the heart. The narrowing is caused by the buildup of plaque. If there is enough narrowing to reduce or block the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart, angina or a heart attack can occur. Fourteen studies were included in the meta-analysis.

The six studies that looked at chocolate’s effect on CHD found that people who ate the most chocolate had a 10% lower risk of CHD than people who ate the least. Importantly, it reduced the risk of heart attack by 14%. Eating just one 30g serving a week already conferred a 6% reduction in risk. Increasing the servings to 3 a week increased the protection to 9%. Seven servings a week reduced the risk by 11% and 10 a week reduced it by 12%.

When it came to stroke, the 7 studies showed that, compared to the people who ate the least chocolate, people who ate the most had a 16% reduced risk of stroke. One serving a week was enough to reduce the risk by 9%, while 3 weekly servings reduced it by 13%, 7 reduced it by 15% and 10 reduced it by 17%.

When it came to diabetes prevention, eating chocolate won again. People who ate the most chocolate had an 18% lower risk of developing diabetes than people who ate the least. But this time, there was a strange result. While 1 serving lowered the risk by 20% and 3 servings by an even better 24%, 7 servings reduced it by a lesser 17% and 10 by 11%.

From this anomalous result, the researchers suggest that eating chocolate decreases the risk of CD, stroke and diabetes, but there is no protective effect against diabetes from more than 6 servings of chocolate a week. Similarly, they suggest that for CHD and stroke, there is little additional benefit to eating more than 3 servings of chocolate a week.

In addition to the researchers’ dosing suggestion seeming to be inconsistent with a large body of research that seems not to show this limitation, their interpretation of no additional benefit is subject to interpretation. For CHD, eating 10 servings of chocolate instead of 3 increased the reduction of risk from 9% to 12%. For stroke, the same increase in servings improved the risk reduction from 13% to 17%. And for diabetes, though servings greater than 6 a week produced less benefit than did 3 servings, they did not produce “no benefit”: 7 servings still produced a 17% risk reduction and 10 servings an 11% risk reduction.

But there is a bigger problem with their suggestion that is the result of a serious flaw in the design of their study. The servings of chocolate that they measured included not only the healthy dark chocolate, but also the much less healthy milk chocolate and the not-really-even-chocolate white chocolate. It is not surprising that eating more “chocolate” confers no additional benefit if the chocolate you are eating more of is not the healthy superfood, dark chocolate, but the junk food candy, milk or white chocolate. The impressive results of this study may have been even more impressive if the researchers had improved their study method to focus only on the flavonoid rich dark chocolate that has, unlike milk chocolate and white chocolate, proven to be so healthy for heart disease and diabetes.


Nutrients 2017;9(7):688


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The Natural Path is intended for educational purposes only and is in no way intended for self-diagnosis or self-treatment. For health problems, consult a qualified health practitioner for a comprehensive program.

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