Chocolate And Your Heart

From time to time you read something about the health benefits of chocolate. Just how true are they?  

Pretty true, it turns out. At least when it comes to chocolate and heart disease. A paper came out yesterday that reviewed all the major publications studying the relationship between chocolate and blood pressure. Collectively the papers surveyed more than 114,000 people. The main result? 

When Franco’s group pooled the data from these studies, they found that people who ate the most chocolate could reduce their risk of heart disease by as much as 37 percent, their risk of diabetes by 31 percent and their risk of stroke by 29 percent, compared with those who ate the least chocolate. Chocolate had no effect on heart failure risk, however.


A few relevant notes:

1). These types of papers comb over all the papers on a particular topic, and sometimes lumping together results on this scale can obfuscate more than it clarifies.

2). It points out in the article that the paper doesn’t control for the types of chocolate used in the study, which is an important detail to skip over.

The health benefits of chocolate are probably derived from the fact that the cocoa bean in its raw form has a lot of useful nutrients. Some of those nutrients survive the manufacturing process, which show up in these studies. But someone adding raw cocoa powder to their breakfast shake in the morning is probably going to have very different results from someone eating a Hershey’s bar everyday.

Cocoa is high in polyphenols, which have a strong link to cardio-vascular health. Most research suggests that dark chocolate retains the most nutritious properties of cocoa. Milk chocolate and other processed forms have almost none. 

The types of polyphenols found in cocoa can also be found in lots of other plants.

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