Eating chocolate each day could reduce heart disease and diabetes risk

Published: 6-May-2016

New study could lead to GPs recommending the consumption of small amounts of dark chocolate

Including a small amount of chocolate each day could help to prevent diabetes and insulin resistance. That’s one of the research findings from the Luxembourg Institute of Health (LIH), the University of Warwick Medical School, the University of South Australia and the University of Maine.

Data from 1153 people aged 18-69 years old who were part of the Observation of Cardiovascular Risk in Luxembourg (ORISCAV-LUX) study were analysed. It was found that those who ate 100g of chocolate a day — equivalent to a bar – had reduced insulin resistance and improved liver enzymes. Insulin sensitivity is a well-established risk factor to cardiovascular disease.

The academics hypothesised that chocolate consumption may have a beneficial effect on insulin sensitivity and liver enzymes, and therefore decided to analyse a national sample of adults, taking into account lifestyle and dietary factors, including the simultaneous consumption of tea and coffee. This is because both drinks can be high in polyphenol, the substance which may provide chocolate with its beneficial cardiometabolic effects.

Prof. Saverio Stranges, Visiting Academic at the University of Warwick Medical School and Scientific Director of the Department of Population Health at LIH, said: 'Given the growing body of evidence, including our own study, cocoa-based products may represent an additional dietary recommendation to improve cardiometabolic health; however, observational results need to be supported by robust trial evidence.'

'Potential applications of this knowledge include recommendations by healthcare professionals to encourage individuals to consume a wide range of phytochemical-rich foods, which can include dark chocolate in moderate amounts. However, it is important to differentiate between the natural product cocoa and the processed product chocolate, which is an energy dense food. Therefore, physical activity, diet and other lifestyle factors must be carefully balanced to avoid detrimental weight gain with time,' added Stranges.

More than 80% of participants claimed to eat an average of 24.8g of chocolate a day. The study also found that those who claimed to eat chocolate were younger, more physically active and had higher levels of education than those who claimed not to eat chocolate on a daily basis.

Dr Ala’a Alkerwi, the Principal Investigator of the study at LIH, said: 'It is also possible that chocolate consumption may represent an overall marker for a cluster of favourable sociodemographic profiles, healthier lifestyle behaviours and better health status. This could explain, at least in part, the observed inverse associations with insulin and liver biomarkers.'

The paper concluded that further observational research and randomised controlled studies are needed to understand the role chocolate may play in insulin resistance and cardiometabolic disorders.

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