Is chocolate good for your heart?
Chocolate is one of America’s favorite treats. In fact, we buy about $22 billion worth of chocolate every year as a country. Good news for us, Harvard researchers found more evidence that chocolate can benefit heart health.
More Evidence that Chocolate Can Benefit Heart Health
Previous studies have shown that dark chocolate that had over 60% cocoa contained antioxidants and polyphenols that keep your heart healthy and reduces inflammation. Some critics opposed these findings and said people should not rely heavily on them.
However, researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health conducted a new study with more than 55,000 people to see if chocolate truly had heart health benefits.
They found that people who ate 2-6 servings of chocolate per week had a 20% lower chances of atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeats), which is a key contributor to strokes, clots, and heart failure. People who had a somewhat lower, regular chocolate consumptions had similar results as well.
While the correlation doesn’t necessarily imply causation, the lead author of the study, Elizabeth Mostofsky, said, “Our study adds to the accumulating evidence on the health benefits of moderate chocolate intake and highlights the importance of behavioral factors for potentially lowering the risk of arrhythmias.”
Dr. Mostofsky continued, saying, “Despite the fact that most of the chocolate consumed by the study participants likely had relatively low concentrations of potentially protective ingredients, we still observed a significant association between eating chocolate and a lower risk of atrial fibrillation — suggesting that even small amounts of cocoa consumption can have a positive health impact.”
There are plenty of other benefits associated with this delicious food. Some of these include prevention of memory loss, enhancing moods and improving cognition. According to studies, consuming a high concentration of dark chocolate can be beneficial to your brain health.
Joy DuBost, PhD, RD, a nutrition spokesperson and owner of Dubost Food & Nutrition Solutions, says the research backs it up. According to her, chocolate can stimulate neural activity in the areas of the brain linked to pleasure and reward.
In other words, chocolate can help relieve some stress and improve your mood. Moreover, chocolate can actually help improve sugar levels and decrease the risk of developing diabetes.
Of course, this particular benefit involves eating dark chocolate – not your typical milk chocolate or those with added sugar ingredients such as caramel. According to a March 2019 article, insulin resistance leads to high blood sugar and type 2 diabetes.
Fortunately, eating healthy amounts of dark chocolate that is rich in cacao can help improve how the body metabolizes sugar (glucose).
Lastly, chocolate (once again, the dark kind) may even be able to help with weight loss. According to neuroscientist Will Clower, PhD, eating a bit of dark chocolate before or after meals can help control appetite.
Clower, who wrote a book called Eat Chocolate, Lose Weight, found that dark chocolate can trigger hormones that tell the brain you’re full.
Healthy in Moderation
Harvard’s research proved more evidence that chocolate can benefit heart health. However, before you run and eat tons of chocolate, it’s only healthy in moderation.
Results showed that those who consumed 2-6 servings, about a square of chocolate a day, had the best results. Eating more than that can lead to heart problems instead of preventing them.
The authors of the study added that they don’t recommend eating excessive amounts of chocolate. This is because “many chocolate products are high in calories from sugar and fat and could lead to weight gain and other metabolic problems.”
“But moderate intake of chocolate with high cocoa content may be a healthy choice.”
So eat responsibly and enjoy the added benefits of chocolate besides the taste!