It seems that the European Heart Journal has its heart set on making parents feel better about their childrens’ consumption of chocolate Easter eggs just in time for the upcoming holiday. In a study published this month, German scientists are reporting that chocolate consumption may help reduce one’s risk of cardiovascular disease. The study looked at 20,000 patients between the ages of 35-65 over a period of 8 years and found that on average mean systolic BP was 1.0 mmHg and mean diastolic BP 0.9 mmHg lower in the top quartile compared with the bottom quartile of chocolate consumption.
The popular media has jumped all over this story which makes sense considering that chocolate is a universal temptation, and consumers of mass media gobble up any story that makes them feel good about their chocolate intake. But how much of a good thing should be deemed too much? According to EurekAlert Dr Brian Buijsse, a nutritional epidemiologist at the German Institute of Human Nutrition, Nuthetal, Germany, who led the research warned consumers against increasing their intake of the calorie rich snack and was quoted as saying that “small amounts of chocolate may help to prevent heart disease, but only if it replaces other energy-dense food, such as snacks, in order to keep body weight stable.”
It must also be stressed that this study looked at the dietary habits of a large group of people over an 8 year period. This is far from a controlled study. It is quite possible that there were other factors including lifestyle, exercise and diet that may have impacted on the results in addition to (or instead of) the “chocolate factor.” While there have been several studies that have pointed to the cardio protective effect of dark chocolate, it is important to recognize that everything must be taken in moderation and that there’s an overabundance of literature associating the negative impact of weight gain and cardiovascular disease.
Conclusion: Always keep your eyes open to a variety of conditions when studying complicated interactions and while you should enjoy your Easter egg, be sure to keep that bunny hopping. The exercise will definitely help.