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Chocolate’s Effect On Your Health: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

Eating a lot of chocolate was associated with a 37% reduction in cardiovascular disease and a 29% reduction in stroke compared eating less, researchers reported. But, people are trending toward record obesity by the year 2030, which is a cardiometabolic risk in its own right.

Chocolate Melting by peter pearson via Flickr and a Creative Commons license

Willie Wonka’s factory wasn’t the only risky place for those with a sweet tooth.

In the first study, to evaluate the association of chocolate with the risk of developing cardiometabolic disorders, researchers performed a meta-analysis of randomized trials, six cohort and one cross-sectional, which reported the association between chocolate and the risk of cardiovascular disease (coronary heart disease and stroke), diabetes, and metabolic syndrome for about 114,000 people.

Because the studies reported chocolate consumption differently, researchers qualified the results from each into levels of the highest or lowest chocolate consumption in each trial. Results appeared in BMJ.

Five of the seven studies reported a beneficial association between higher levels of chocolate consumption and the risk of cardiometabolic disorders. The highest levels of chocolate consumption were associated with a 37% reduction in cardiovascular disease (relative risk [RR] 0.63; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.44 to 0.90) and a 29% reduction in stroke compared with the lowest levels. No significant association was observed for heart failure (RR 0.95; 95% CI, 0.61 to 1.48).

The authors wrote, “[C]hocolate might be a viable instrument in the prevention of cardiometabolic disorders if consumed in moderation and if efforts are made to reduce the sugar and fat content of currently available products.” And, the effect would benefit countries where cocoa is grown but not processed with all the fats and extra sugars.

But not so fast for Americans, the authors cautioned. Chocolate snacks pack about 2,100 kJ (500 kcal) for every 100 grams, so excessive consumption causes weight gain, which is a cardiovascular risk in and of itself.

And obesity is on the rise in England and America, according to the latest study on trends.

In another study, researchers looked at the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey in the U.S. and the Healthy Survey for England from the U.K. and made projections for the probable range of the outlook of growth in obesity prevalence for the next 20 years. Results appeared in The Lancet.

Trends project 65 million more obese American adults and 11 million more obese British adults by 2030. These trends could in turn trigger an additional 6 million to 8.5 million cases of diabetes, 5.7 million to 7.3 million cases of heart disease and stroke, and 492,000 to 669,000 more cancers.

There would be 26 million to 55 million quality-adjusted life years forgone for both countries combined and increased medical costs of $48 billion to $66 billion annually in the U.S. and 1.9 to 2 billion in British pounds annually in the U.K.

The Lancet published the research as part of a much larger series about obesity.

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*


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