Chocolate indulgence is not really ‘sinful’
A patient, who has a self-confessed sweet tooth, asked me if she should stop eating chocolate bars which are her emotion booster every time she feels depressed and lacking in energy.
It sounds counter-intuitive, but chocolates and the moderate indulgence in them may be good for one’s cardiovascular health. Specifically, it can reduce the risk of developing heart disease and stroke.
But just like anything good in life, chocolates taken in excess may have not-so-favorable expenses. The key word is moderation. So depriving oneself of chocolates completely is not really scientifically founded.
Lower risk of CVD, stroke
In a study presented in one of the previous European Society of Cardiology scientific sessions and published in the British Medical Journal, British investigators reported that chocolate lovers had a 37-percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and a 29-percent lower risk of stroke compared with individuals who rarely ate chocolate.
However, Dr. Adriana Buitrago-Lopez (University of Cambridge, United Kingdom) and colleagues stressed that chocolates have to be taken in moderation and warned about the possible adverse effects of excessive intake. Because of the high calories it contains, too much intake of chocolate can possibly lead to being overweight and obesity.
“Although overconsumption can have harmful effects, the existing studies generally agree on a potential beneficial association of chocolate consumption with a lower risk of cardiometabolic disorders,” the study authors stated. “Our findings confirm this, and we found that higher levels of chocolate consumption might be associated with a one-third reduction in the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.”
What can explain the beneficial effects of chocolates? According to the authors, the favorable effects may be due to the high content of polyphenols present in cocoa products. Polyphenols are substances that can enhance the body’s production of nitric oxide, which dilates the blood vessels and enhances the integrity of the arteries. By doing so, the progressive narrowing of the arteries, called atherosclerosis, is markedly slowed down. Medical science labels this benefit as an enhancement in endothelial function.
But aside from this the polyphenols in chocolates can also prevent the clotting of blood inside arteries by reducing the stickiness of some blood elements such as the platelets. Chocolates also have beneficial effects on the blood pressure.
Paradoxical as it may sound, the polyphenols in chocolates may also help regulate the secretion of insulin and help regulate the blood sugar and cholesterol levels. So, contrary to what many believe, moderate chocolate intake may actually help prevent diabetes.
In their pooled analysis (meta-analysis) of seven studies, overall chocolate consumption was recorded and analyzed without distinguishing between dark and milk or white chocolate. Chocolate in any form was included. Asians were included in one of the studies in the analysis.
Overall, the pooled meta-analysis found that moderate levels of chocolate consumption compared with the lowest levels of chocolate consumption reduced the risk of any cardiovascular disease by 37 percent and stroke 29 percent. There was also no association noted between chocolate consumption and the risk of heart failure, which was a previous concern. No risk of developing diabetes, particularly in women, was observed.
This study actually validates similar findings of previous meta-analyses and other studies in different populations suggesting a relationship between chocolate or cocoa consumption and heart diseases with metabolic disorders in the body.
So, adding chocolates to your dessert plate may not be such a bad idea. It’s not a “sinful” indulgence that you must feel guilty about.
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