Chocolate Decreases the Death Rate from Heart Attacks and Stroke

Wouldn’t you just feel vindicated if you found out that eating chocolate is actually healthy?

One group of researchers found that eating chocolate lowered blood pressure and decreased the risk of cardiovascular disease (heart attacks and stroke).

But watch out. Read this whole article before you make your decisions.

Every time one of these articles comes out a lot of folks jump on the bandwagon to promote chocolate. In fact a number of multilevel companies are touting the health benefits of eating chocolate. I have remained extremely skeptical.

Here’s the problem:

Dark chocolate which is the kind that has the most cocoa tastes extremely bitter. To make it taste yummy you have to add lots of sugar and saturated fat. Those last two ingredients greatly contribute to the risk of developing heart disease. So the mildly beneficial effects of the cocoa are greatly diminished by the adverse effects of the sugar and fat.

But okay, let’s take a look at this article and see what they found.

“April 8, 2010 – The largest observational study so far to examine the association between chocolate consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease has found that those who ate the most chocolate–around 7.5 g per day–had a 39% lower risk of myocardial infarction (MI) (heart attack) and stroke than individuals who ate almost no chocolate.

Lead author Dr Brian Buijsse (German Institute of Human Nutrition, Nuthetal, Germany) told heartwire: “This shows that habitual consumption of chocolate is related to a lower risk of heart disease and stroke that is partly explained by blood-pressure reduction. The risk reduction is stronger for stroke than for MI, which is logical because it appears that chocolate and cocoa have a pronounced effect on BP [blood pressure], and BP is a higher risk factor for stroke than for MI.” Buijsse and colleagues report their findings online March 31, 2010 in the European Heart Journal.

However, Buijsse cautions that only small amounts of chocolate were associated with the benefits and it is too early to give recommendations on chocolate consumption: “Maybe it’s a boring message, but it’s a little too early to come up with recommendations, because chocolate contains so many calories and sugar, and obesity is already an epidemic. We have to be careful.” However, he added, that if people did want to treat themselves, they would be better off choosing small amounts of chocolate, preferably dark chocolate, over other sweet snacks. “We know it is the cocoa content in chocolate that is important, so the higher the cocoa content, the better.”

So here’s how chocolate exerts its favorable effects:

The flavanols in chocolate release nitric oxide which lowers blood pressure and improves platelet function.

Chocolate also has antioxidant properties which protect tissues from damage.

The amount of chocolate eaten each day was equivalent to one small square (6 grams) of a chocolate bar or about half of a chocolate Easter egg. Bummer, that’s not very much.

The researchers followed this group of chocolate eaters every 2 to 3 years until December of 2006 by sending a questionnaire asking if they had experienced a heart attack or stroke. They then followed up with the person’s doctor or clinic. They also looked at death certificates searching for any cause of death listed as heart attacks or strokes.

Those Eating Most Chocolate Had Half the Risk of Stroke

Over that eight year period there were 166 heart attacks (24 fatal) and 136 strokes (12 fatal). Those who ate the most chocolate had a 27% reduced risk of heart attack and nearly half the risk (48%) of stroke, compared with those  who ate the least amount of chocolate.

Okay, okay that sounds pretty convincing. But can you only eat one small square of chocolate? If you’re a chocoholic like me I bet you can’t eat one. When I was eating sweets I was very addicted to chocolate. So now I don’t eat any.

This research would be more convincing to me if we could eat straight cocoa but who wants that bitter taste. Although I know a few people who will eat chocolate nips or dark chocolate bars that basically have no sugar in them.

I think quotes from these professionals are good advice:

British Heart Foundation dietician Victoria Taylor says, “It’s important to read the small print with this study. The amount consumed on average by even the highest consumers was about one square of chocolate a day or half a small chocolate Easter egg in a week, so the benefits were associated with a fairly small amount of chocolate.

“Some people will be tempted to eat more than one square; however, chocolate has high amounts of calories and saturated fat . . . two of the key risk factors for heart disease,” she noted in a statement.

Ruschitzka similarly urged caution: “Before you rush to add dark chocolate to your diet, be aware that 100 g of dark chocolate contains roughly 500 calories. As such, you may want to subtract an equivalent amount of calories, by cutting back on other foods, to avoid weight gain.”

Here’s my advice:

Don’t be fooled by all of the exaggerations about the health benefits of chocolate being pushed by the chocolate companies. The sugar and fat in the chocolate greatly offsets the benefits of the cocoa. Get your antioxidant protection from eating lots of fruit and vegetables instead.

So I won’t be a complete party pooper, check out these holiday recipes:

Healthy Coconut Candy

Crockpot Mashed Potatoes

Sweet Potato Apple Casserole

Brown Rice Dressing


Dr. Jo

About Dr. Jo

Dr. JoDr. Jo delights in sharing the message of health. She believes disease is optional if you know how to take care of yourself. And she’s a great coach to help you reverse or prevent disease.

So she writes this blog to keep you up to date with information that may undermine your health if you are not aware of it. She also provides tips on healthy living, how to reverse degenerative diseases, delicious recipes, and ways to enjoyably change your habits to healthy ones.

Similar Posts

Post a Comment