Cambridge, UK—New meta-analysis from British Medical Journal (BMJ) shows that chocolate could in fact reduce the risk of cardiometabolic disorders, such as heart disease and diabetes.

The analysis included approximately 114,000 participants (from seven separate studies) and found that chocolate produced a 37% decrease in cardiovascular disease and a 29% decrease in stroke risk factors in patients that were tested.

Five out of seven studies concluded that there is an inverse relationship between chocolate and its effects on the risk of heart problems: the higher the intake of chocolate and other cocoa products, the less risk of any cardiovascular complications.

It is the polyphenols and flavonoids within the cocoa beans that aid the absorption of nitric oxide, causing better blood pressure and platelet reduction, according to the research team from Cambridge University.

The biggest problem of the experiment lies within the high levels of saturated fat and sugar in chocolate, canceling out the cocoa flavonoids. The study authors say in its discussion, “…excessive consumption [of chocolate] will probably induce weight gain, a risk factor for hypertension…diabetes and cardiometabolic disorders in general.” Thus, taking a supplement that incorporates cocoa extract may provide the best of both worlds: health benefits without the calories and fat.

The authors admit that “further experimental studies are required to confirm a potentially beneficial effect of chocolate consumption,” but the initial studies have already shown an increase in health benefits.

Printed in WholeFoods Magazine November 2011, online 9/27/11