Eating chocolate five times a week reduces an overweight person’s risk of having a heart attack, new research suggests.
Among those carrying too much weight, those who indulge in the treat at least five times a week are the least likely to have a coronary artery disease (CAD)-related event, such as a heart attack, a study found.
Overweight people who never eat chocolate are the most at risk of suffering a CAD-related event, the research adds.
Previous research has linked minimally processed, dark chocolate to improved heart health due to its antioxidants protecting against ‘bad’ cholesterol, as well as boosting blood flow, lowering blood pressure and preventing clots.
The study reveals chocolate’s effects do not occur in those who have a healthy BMI or are underweight, which may be due to its impact being small and therefore only benefiting overweight people who are more at risk of a CAD-related event, the US researchers speculate.
How the research was carried out
The researchers from the VA Boston Healthcare System analyzed 148,465 US veterans who participated in the Million Veteran Program, which monitors their health over time.
The study’s participants had an average age of 64 and were made up of 90 percent men.
None of the participants had CAD at the start of the study. CAD is the build-up of plaque in arteries that supply blood to the heart, putting people at risk of a heart attack.
The participants were asked how often they eat 28 grams of either milk or dark chocolate without any ‘extra flavorings’ such as nuts or caramel.
They were followed for around two-and-a-half years.
Some 4,055 of the participants experienced a CAD-related event during the study period.
Five servings of chocolate a week may prevent heart attacks
Results reveal overweight people who consume five or more servings of chocolate every week are the least likely to have a CAD-related event.
People carrying too much weight who never indulge in chocolate are the most at risk of suffering such an incident.
Chocolate does not affect someone with a healthy BMI or an underweight person’s CAD risk. Although unclear, this may be due to chocolate’s CAD-effects being small and therefore only occurring in overweight people who are more at risk anyway.
Previous research reveals minimally processed, dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants that help to protect the body against ‘bad’ cholesterol that causes plaque.
It also contains compounds, known as flavanols, that lower blood pressure, improve blood flow, and make platelets less ‘sticky’ and likely to clot. All of these contribute to a reduced CAD-event risk.
The findings were presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions meeting in Anaheim, California.