Can a chocolate a day help heart health?
To the tantalising delight of chocolate lovers everywhere, a number of recent studies have claimed the delicious treat could benefit heart health.
Now a review and analysis of 19 randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of cocoa consumption conducted by Brown University researchers reveals some further pieces of supporting evidence.
Scientists studied information from controlled trials of more than 1,100 volunteers to determine whether consuming cocoa products containing compounds called flavanols improved certain biomarkers such as cholesterol levels and a person’s sensitivity to insulin, the hormone that controls blood sugar levels.
“Our meta-analysis of RCTs characterises how cocoa flavanols affect cardiometabolic biomarkers, providing guidance in designing large, definitive prevention trials against diabetes and cardiovascular disease in future work,” said corresponding author Dr. Simin Liu. “We found that cocoa flavanol intake may reduce dyslipidemia (elevated triglycerides), insulin resistance and systemic inflammation, which are all major subclinical risk factors for cardiometabolic diseases.”
The results were consistent whether the flavanols were consumed through dark chocolate or beverages made from powdered cocoa. In a statement, lead author Xiaochen Lin warned against generalising the results to include chocolate candies or white chocolates, because “the content of sugar/food additives could be substantially higher than that of the dark chocolate.”
Although not all the targeted biomarkers changed for the better in the volunteers, researchers said, “there were small-to-modest but statistically significant improvements among those who ate flavanol-rich cocoa products,” with the greatest improvements among those who ate 200 to 600 milligrams of flavanols a day.
The authors concluded, “Our study highlights the urgent need for large, long-term RCTs that improve our understanding of how the short-term benefits of cocoa flavanol intake on cardiometabolic biomarkers may be translated into clinical outcomes.”
The study was published in the Journal of Nutrition.