Chocolate 'may cut stroke risk'
Chocolate-lovers could be cutting their risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke, research suggests.
Previous studies have found that chocolate, particularly of the dark variety, contains compounds which may reduce the inflammation that leads to heart disease. The sweet treat is also hailed as having antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which could be beneficial for health.
In the latest research, published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), experts from the University of Cambridge reviewed seven studies on the issue. Five reported a positive link between higher levels of chocolate consumption and lower risks of several diseases.
People who ate the most chocolate had a 37% reduced risk of heart disease and a 29% reduction in stroke compared with those eating the least. One of the studies also found a 31% lower risk of diabetes for chocolate-lovers. No significant reduction was found in relation to heart failure.
The research, which covered more than 100,000 people, included milk, dark and white chocolate and examined consumption of chocolate bars, drinks, biscuits and desserts.
High consumption was generally regarded, depending on the study, as eating chocolate products more than once a week or 7.5g daily.
However, the authors warned that the results should be interpreted with caution, especially because chocolate is so calorific it can cause weight gain. Excess weight increases the risk of several diseases, including diabetes, cancer and heart disease.
While the health benefits of eating chocolate mean more could be done to reduce its fat and sugar content, further studies are needed, the experts said.
Victoria Taylor, from the British Heart Foundation, said: "Evidence does suggest chocolate might have some heart health benefits but we need to find out why that might be. We can't start advising people to eat lots of chocolate based on this research.
"It didn't explore what it is about chocolate that could help and if one particular type of chocolate is better than another. If you want to reduce your heart disease risk, there are much better places to start than at the bottom of a box of chocolates."