THE QUESTION Does chocolate, which is believed to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, offer heart-related health benefits?
THIS STUDY analyzed data from seven studies involving 114,009 adults, ages 25 to 93, and including information on their diets and occurrences of cardiovascular disease over periods from eight to 16 years. People who ate the most chocolate — dark or light and in such forms as bars, drinks, desserts, snacks and nutritional supplements — were 37 percent less likely to have developed cardiovascular disease and 29 percent less likely to have had a stroke than were those who ate the least amount of chocolate. Chocolate consumption had no effect on the occurrence of heart failure.
WHO MAY BE AFFECTED? People who eat chocolate. Heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death among both men and women in the United States, killing more than 600,000 people each year. Diet and other lifestyle changes are considered key in preventing and controlling heart-related disorders.
CAVEATS Data on chocolate consumption came from the participants’ responses on questionnaires. The study did not determine whether the benefits varied by type of chocolate and did not indicate what constituted the highest and lowest amounts of chocolate consumption. The authors warned that chocolate should be eaten in moderation because of the generally high sugar and fat content of many commercially available chocolate products and urged that efforts be made to reduce this, in light of the benefits shown in the study.
FIND THIS STUDY in the Aug. 29 issue of BMJ (www.bmj.com).
The research described in Quick Study comes from credible, peer-reviewed journals. Nonetheless, conclusive evidence about a treatment's effectiveness is rarely found in a single study. Anyone considering changing or beginning treatment of any kind should consult with a physician.