October 2, 2011 by Robert Wascher
Filed under Cancer Prevention, Chocolate, Cocoa, Hypertension, Metabolic Syndrome, Nutrition, Peripheral Vascular Disease, Saturated Fat, Weekly Health Update, cardiovascular disease, coronary artery disease, diabetes, diet, flavonoids, health, heart attack, heart disease, hyperglycemia, obesity, polyphenols, stroke
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New research suggests that moderate chocolate consumption can significantly decrease the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
NEW RESEARCH SAYS THAT CHOCOLATE DECREASES CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE RISK AND DIABETES
Cocoa, from which chocolate is made, is known to be rich in flavonol antioxidants, as well as other compounds that appear to reduce the risk of developing the cholesterol plaques that cause coronary artery disease, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease. Cocoa has also been shown to improve the function and health of critical blood vessels in the body, which can lower elevated blood pressure. Moreover, additional research has shown that cocoa may also decrease the risk of diabetes.
Milk chocolate contains considerably more fat and sugar than dark chocolate, and these milk chocolate additives are well known to increase the risk of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Therefore, dark chocolate has been more often recommended than milk chocolate as a possibly healthy treat. However, several public health studies have suggested that even milk chocolate may still possess clinically significant cardiovascular health benefits, despite its high fat and high sugar content.
A newly published meta-analysis study, which appears in the British Medical Journal, adds weight to the possibility that even milk chocolate might have heart-healthy properties. In this meta-analysis study, seven previously published public health research studies, which included 114,009 research volunteers, were analyzed. This analysis revealed that 5 of these 7 previously published public health studies found that increased chocolate consumption was associated with a significant decrease in the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Specifically, research volunteers who reported the highest levels of chocolate consumption were observed to be 37 percent less likely to develop heart disease, 31 percent less likely to develop diabetes, and 29 percent less likely to have a stroke when compared to the volunteers who reported the least chocolate consumption.
Now, for the (possibly) bad news…. None of these seven public health research studies were randomized clinical research studies. All were so-called “observational” studies, wherein groups of volunteers completed questionnaires regarding their diet and lifestyle habits, and were then observed over time for the development of new health problems. The obvious weakness of observational studies, in general, is their reliance upon the often inaccurate self-reporting by research volunteers on questionnaires designed to assess their dietary and lifestyle habits. The other weakness of these particular research studies is that they did not identify which types of chocolate were associated either with the least or the greatest health benefits (nor is it clear from these studies whether or not there is an optimal amount of chocolate intake necessary to produce the greatest possible health benefits). All of these important disclaimers aside, multiple clinical research studies have previously shown very significant potential health benefits associated with regular chocolate consumption. At the same time, in view of the clear association of increased fat and sugar intake with obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease risk, among other health problems, my recommendation to my patients and readers is to take moderate amounts of dark chocolate, and other lower-fat and lower-sugar chocolates, as part of a heart-healthy lifestyle!
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Disclaimer: As always, my advice to readers is to seek the advice of your physician before making any significant changes in medications, diet, or level of physical activity
Dr. Wascher is an oncologic surgeon, professor of surgery, cancer researcher, oncology consultant, and a widely published author
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