- A Brown University team analyzed studies on chocolate and health
- They found daily bites of chocolate was conducive to good health
- But unsurprisingly too much is bad, and milk or white chocolate is bad
- The team says their evidence could transform obesity prevention
A daily dose of dark chocolate could do wonders for your heart health, research shows.
For years scientists have suggested the sweet treat seems to have a good impact on your cardiovascular system.
But new research from Brown University provides the strongest evidence to date that daily consumption is good for you.
In a meta-analysis of 19 research papers by Brown University, researchers identified how flavanol in cocoa plants decreases artery inflammation.
They found 600 milligrams a day of flavanol-rich cocoa – like pure hot cocoa or natural dark chocolate – dramatically decreases your risk of developing heart disease.
Flavanols are antioxidants that naturally occur in cocoa, as well as some fruits, vegetables, tea and red wine.
Cocoa flavanols are a unique blend of phytonutrients that can only be found in the cocoa bean.
They keep up a healthy flow of oxygen in the blood, driving nutrients to your organs.
According to co-author Dr Simin Liu, their findings could transform prevention techniques in the field of diabetes and heart disease.
And they implore others in the medical community to conduct more in-depth research into the health benefits of chocolate.
‘Our meta-analysis (…) provide[s] guidance in designing large, definitive prevention trials against diabetes and cardiovascular disease in future work,’ Dr Liu said.
‘It highlights the urgent need for large, long-term [medical trials] that improve our understanding of how the short-term benefits of cocoa flavanol intake on cardiometabolic biomarkers may be translated into clinical outcomes.’
Working with graduate student Xiachen Lin, Dr Liu focused on the relation between flavanol-rich cocoa products (i.e.: pure dark chocolate) and specific circulating biomarkers of cardiometabolic health.
The trials involved 1,139 volunteers.
Their results showed statistically significant improvements among those who ate flavanol-rich cocoa product compared with those who did not.
The greatest effects were seen among trial volunteers who ate between 200 and 600 milligrams of flavanols a day.
They saw significant declines in blood glucose and insulin, as well as another indicator of insulin resistance called HOMA-IR.
They also saw an increase in HDL, or ‘good,’ cholesterol.
Those consuming higher doses saw some of the insulin resistance benefits and a drop in triglycerides, but not a significant increase in HDL.
Those with lower doses of flavanols only saw a significant HDL benefit.
In general, Lin said, where there were benefits they were evident for both women and men and didn’t depend on what physical form the flavanol-rich cocoa product was consumed in – dark chocolate vs. a beverage, for example.
‘The treatment groups of the trials included in our meta-analysis are primarily dark chocolate – a few were using cocoa powder-based beverages,’ Lin said.
‘Therefore, the findings from the current study apparently shouldn’t be generalized to different sorts of chocolate candies or white chocolates, of which the content of sugar/food additives could be substantially higher than that of the dark chocolate.’
Liu noted some limitations in the trials.
All studies were small and of short duration, and none of the studies were designed to test directly whether cocoa flavanol consumption leads to reduced cases of heart attacks or type 2 diabetes.