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Sweet discovery: Eating chocolate can add years to your life

The health benefits of chocolate consumption, particularly its potential role in reducing the risk of early death, have been a hot topic among researchers. A new comprehensive study suggests that eating chocolate can lower mortality risk by up to ten percent.

This revelation comes amidst a backdrop of mixed findings in previous research investigating chocolate’s relationship with cardiovascular disease (CVD).

Past studies have shown conflicting results. Some suggested an inverse relationship between chocolate intake and diseases like coronary heart disease (CHD) and stroke, while others found no connection at all. 

However, this newly published research in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics goes one step further. It explores the previously uncharted territory of chocolate consumption’s impact on the risk of mortality from specific causes, especially in women.

The findings echo past studies which proposed that antioxidants found in cocoa beans could help repair damaged cells in the body, thereby promoting overall health. Additionally, cocoa has been linked to lower blood pressure and prevention of fat buildup in arteries, which are vital to cardiovascular health.

Research focused on chocolate consumption

The research was based on the study of health records from 84,709 post-menopausal women in the US over a 19-year period. The conclusion was that chocolate-eaters were less likely to die of heart disease and some cancers compared to their counterparts who never indulge.

The lead researcher, Dr Yangbo Sun from the University of Tennessee, stressed that while the long-term health effects of chocolate consumption “remain unclear,” the study nonetheless found a correlation between chocolate intake and a “modestly lower death risk.” 

Dr Sun’s note of caution derives from the fact that chocolate, while containing beneficial components like antioxidants and flavonoid compounds, also harbors sugar and fat which are associated with weight gain.

Studying how eating chocolate impacts health

The study, part of the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI), employed a validated food frequency questionnaire (FFQ) to evaluate diet at the beginning of the study.

Participants were asked about their frequency of consuming one ounce of chocolate candies and candy bars over the past three months, with categories ranging from no intake to one serving each day.

After analyzing 1,608,856 person-years, the study recorded 25,388 deaths, including 7,069 deaths due to CVD, 7,030 due to cancer, and 3,279 due to dementia. 

Despite some chocolate-eating participants exhibiting unhealthy habits like smoking, higher energy intake, and lower diet quality, a correlation was nonetheless found between higher chocolate intake and lower likelihood of having diabetes and high blood cholesterol at the start of the study. However, these women were more likely to have a higher body mass index (BMI).

Lower risk of all-cause mortality

An intriguing aspect of the study’s findings was that women who consumed chocolate had a lower risk of all-cause mortality compared to those who did not. Moreover, this risk further decreased with more frequent consumption, with the lowest risk observed in those consuming one serving each day.

Interestingly, eating chocolate had a nuanced impact on CVD mortality. Less frequent consumption (less than one serving per week) slightly lowered the risk of CVD.

The lowest risk, however, was recorded for women consuming one to three servings every week, while daily eaters had similar CVD risk to those who did not consume chocolate at all.

The researchers also found a reduction in risk of lung cancer mortality and dementia (excluding Alzheimer’s disease) mortality among those who consumed chocolate, with the lowest risk seen among those consuming four to six servings each week.

In conclusion, moderate chocolate intake (three servings every week) appears to lower the risk of mortality, even after adjusting for various confounding factors.

Despite these promising results, researchers urge that more studies are needed to understand the potential connection between high chocolate intake and specific causes of death. 

These findings not only offer hope to chocolate lovers but also open new paths for nutritional studies examining the impact of diet on our health.

More about the health benefits of chocolate 

The health benefits of chocolate, particularly dark chocolate, have been increasingly recognized over the years.

Heart health from eating chocolate

Chocolate contains flavonoids, a type of antioxidant. Flavonoids have been found to improve heart health by improving blood flow, making platelets in the blood less sticky, and reducing LDL (bad cholesterol) which can clog arteries.

Blood pressure and blood sugar

The flavonoids in dark chocolate can help reduce blood pressure. Additionally, despite its sweet taste, dark chocolate has a low glycemic index, which means it won’t cause large spikes in blood sugar levels.

Brain function

Some studies suggest that the flavonoids in chocolate could improve brain function, with immediate effects on mood and cognitive performance. The long-term effects are still being studied, but chocolate could potentially slow down cognitive decline.

Antioxidants from eating chocolate

Chocolate is rich in antioxidants, which help neutralize harmful free radicals in the body. Free radicals can cause oxidative stress, which can lead to chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer.

Mental health

Chocolate contains phenylethylamine (PEA), which is the same chemical that your brain creates when you feel like you’re falling in love. PEA encourages your brain to release endorphins, boosting your mood.


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