New research suggests that consuming chocolate once a week can reduce a woman’s risk for heart disease and heart-related problems in later life.
The new study data comes from a randomized controlled trial of calcium supplements, following 1,216 older women. The researchers were interested in determining the relationship between chocolate consumption and atherosclerotic vascular disease (ASVD) events in older women who were followed over the course of nearly 10 years.
Atherosclerotic vascular disease — also known as atherosclerosis — is a condition in which blood artery walls thicken as the result of a build-up of fatty materials, such as cholesterol. Atherosclerosis, if undetected and untreated, can lead to a heart attack or stroke.
The researchers, led by Joshua R. Lewis, BSc, PhD from the University of Western Australia, divided the women up into three groups based their self-reported chocolate intake — less than 1 serving a week, 1 to 6 servings per week, 7 or more servings per week.
They then examined the subjects for plaque buildup in their arteries using B-mode carotid
ultrasonography. They also examined data from the Western Australian Data Linkage System to assess clinical outcomes and causes of death, to verify events independent of patient reporting.
More than 47 percent of the subjects had less than 1 serving of chocolate weekly, nearly 36 percent had between 1 and 6 servings per week, and nearly 17 percent had more than 7 servings per week.
The researchers determined there were 158 ASVD events (27.3 percent) in the group that rarely consumed chocolate, compared with 90 events (20.7 percent ) in the group that consumed chocolate weekly, and 42 events (20.8 percent) in the group that consumed chocolate daily.
The researchers said that their results show that hospitalization or death was less common in participants in the study who consumed chocolate frequently. Compared to non-chocolate eaters, women who consumed more frequently were at significantly lower risk for hospitalizations for or death of ischemic heart disease or heart failure.
“The data from [our study of] elderly women are the first, to our knowledge, to show an association between chocolate consumption and carotid atherosclerotic plaque prevalence,” the researchers said.
“[These data] provide further evidence that chocolate intake may be protective against atherosclerotic vascular disease events.” The reduction of these events suggests a reduced future risk of common heart problems, such as a heart attack, or stroke.
“These data also suggest that weekly chocolate consumption may be as effective as daily consumption to obtain the cardiovascular benefit, since we found similar risk reductions of 24 percent among daily and weekly chocolate consumers.”
The study appears in the November 8 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.
Source: Archives of Internal Medicine/JAMA