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Aug 02, 2016

Chocolate Protects Against Heart Attack

Three or more servings of chocolate a week reduces risk of heart attack, finds study.

Having three or more servings of chocolate each week reduces risk of heart attack, according to a recent study of more than 67,000 Swedish adults.

Published in the British medical journal Heart, this study looked at the association between chocolate consumption and heart attack. In recent years, many studies have linked moderate chocolate consumption to improved heart health, likely thanks to its flavanols, antioxidants, and “good” fats that promote better health. However, few studies have specifically looked at the impact of chocolate consumption on heart attack—a leading cause of death in the United States.

To learn more, researchers analyzed data from the Cohort of Swedish Men and the Swedish Mammography Cohort, which followed more than 67,600 men and women from 1998–2010. All participants were free of heart disease at the start of the study and completed a questionnaire on health, lifestyle and diet upon enrollment. Researchers then followed participants for up to 12 years, tracking heart attacks and other health outcomes.

Overall, there were a total of 4,417 heart attacks recorded during the study period. After analysis, researchers found that adults consuming the highest amount of chocolate (3 or more servings per week) had 13% lower risk of heart attack than those that consumed no chocolate.

Additionally, when authors combined their data with that of other studies, they also reported similar findings. Combined with five past studies, researchers analyzed a total of 6,851 heart attack cases among nearly 145,000 adults from Germany, the UK, the USA, Australia and Sweden. Overall, researchers found that consuming at least 3 servings of chocolate a week was associated with a 10% lower risk of heart attack and heart disease compared with no chocolate consumption.

Based on findings, reduced risk of heart attack should be added to the list of potential health benefits from regular chocolate consumption. However, it’s important to note that moderation is key when it comes to chocolate. In this study, the highest level of chocolate consumption was around 3 servings per week—the equivalent of 1–2 chocolate bars. Also, although types of chocolate were not considered in this study, certain types of chocolate are healthier than others. In general, dark chocolate and other less-processed chocolates will contain the highest level of flavanols and the most beneficial nutrients.

Questions for You to Consider

  • Are all types of chocolate good for your heart?
  • It is important to note that not all chocolates are created equal! In general, the best chocolates for your heart are ones that are the least processed and contain the greatest levels of flavanols and cocoa powder.

  • How does chocolate improve cardiovascular health?
  • Although the exact relationship is unclear, many suggest that the antioxidants and flavanols found in cocoa and chocolate help resist damage to the heart over time. Furthermore, certain types of “good” fats such as oleic acid, most commonly found in olive oil, may help protect the heart and control cholesterol levels.

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