Chocolate Helps Reduce Heart Disease Risk

By Amir Khan on June 1, 2012 8:45 AM EDT

Chocolate
Dark chocolate can help reduce heart disease risk, according to a new study. (Photo: Creative Commons)

Chocolate lovers have a new reason to eat their favorite food. Eating a small amount of chocolate every day is linked to a lower risk of heart disease, according to a new study, published in the journal BMJ on Thursday.

"Modest intake of dark chocolate intake can provide the daily amount and the benefits are substantial and cost effective," Chris Reid, lead author of the study and professor of epidemiology and preventive medicine at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, told ABC News. "For the first time, we have estimated the impact on clinical outcomes and a $40 per person, per year investment would yield a cost effective approach to cardiovascular disease prevention."

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 But before you run out to buy a Hershey's bar, researchers noted that only dark chocolate with at least 60% cocoa showed heart-health effects. Milk and white chocolates showed none of the same benefits.

Over a 10 year period, eating 100 grams of chocolate per day could avert up to 70 heart attacks and strokes per 10,000 people.  The 100 grams doesn't have to come from chocolate bars either, researchers said.

"Stir some of the baking cocoa powder into skim milk, but not the powders you make hot chocolate with," Lauren Graf, a registered dietician at Montefiore Medical Center in New York, who was not involved in the study, told ABC News. "A label will indicate whether the chocolate is processed with alkaline, which reduces antioxidants levels and won't be as beneficial."

Although the study found some benefits of eating chocolate daily, some researchers had difficulty accepting the results.

"I suspect that consuming dark chocolate every day for 10 years may have unintended adverse consequences," Kenneth Ong, a researcher at the Brooklyn Hospital Center, told Reuters "The additional sugar and caloric intake may negatively impact patients in this study, who are overweight and glucose intolerant to begin with."

Eric Ding, a nutritionist and epidemiologist at Harvard Medical School, reviewed the findings and told WebMD he's skeptical.

"It's over-assuming the benefits," he said. "They are basing their estimates on heart disease intermediate risk factors (blood pressure and cholesterol) and not on actual heart disease events."

But Reid maintains that eating chocolate, in moderation, can help. He said it's a lifestyle change everyone can get behind.

"At last, a possible dietary or lifestyle modification recommendation that would be highly acceptable to many!" he said.

© 2012 iScience Times All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

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