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Semi-sweet news for chocolate lovers
August 29th, 2011
04:10 AM ET

Semi-sweet news for chocolate lovers

Editor's note: Watch Dr. Sanjay Gupta Reports: The Last Heart Attack at 8p and 11p ET on Saturday, September 3rd.

If only everything that looked good, felt good, or tasted good was good for us too. It comes as more welcome news for chocolate lovers, then, that yet another study has linked chocolate consumption with improved heart health. Maybe.

Researchers at the University of Cambridge analyzed the results of seven existing studies and concluded that high levels of chocolate consumption might be associated with a notable reduction in the risk of developing heart disease. Five of the seven studies reported a beneficial link between higher levels of chocolate consumptions and the risk of cardiovascular events. They found that “the highest levels of chocolate consumption were associated with a 37% reduction in cardiovascular disease and a 29% reduction in stroke, compared with the lowest levels [of consumption].”

The studies, notably, did not differentiate between dark or milk chocolate and included consumption of different types of chocolate (bars, shakes, etc.)

"The observations represent associations, not cause and effect," says Alice Lichtenstein, director and senior scientist at Tufts University's Cardiovascular Nutrition Laboratory. "The results of the evidence review provide support for conducting controlled intervention trials using well-defined preparations of chocolate before we can determine the actual effect of chocolate on heart disease risk."

By the year 2030, the World Health Organization estimates that nearly 23.6 million people will die from heart disease. In CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s documentary “The Last Heart Attack,” Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr. asserts that simply modifying one’s diet can make a person heart attack-proof in just one month. Should chocolate then be prescribed as part of this diet, which advocates the consumption of a plant-based food plan?

A number of recent studies have shown that eating chocolate has a positive impact on human health, thanks to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, namely reducing blood pressure and improving insulin sensitivity.

But here’s the caveat. Chocolate, as we all know, is full of calories, and eating too much of it could lead to weight gain, diabetes, or even heart disease – the very ailment some believe chocolate is working to prevent in the first place.

The authors of the study stress that further testing is needed to determine whether chocolate actually causes this reduction in heart problems, or if the health benefits are instead better explained by some other unmeasured factor.

"Were there compounds in cocoa that decrease heart risk," says Lichtenstein, "it will be important to identify them, isolate them, and determine the optimal dose and best route to administer them."

One thing is clear. Chocolate does far more for our bodies than activate our taste buds. Given its apparent health benefits, some resources might now be shifted to exploring the fat and sugar contents of chocolate, and how we might go about lowering them. This new “superfood” would be quite sweet indeed.


soundoff (71 Responses)
  1. Audieme

    They had me at 'chocolate.'

    August 29, 2011 at 08:02 | Report abuse | Reply
    • tanna

      lol, me too

      August 30, 2011 at 10:02 | Report abuse |
    • Darkwolf

      I've always loved chocolate... the darker, the better. It even helps with Dementors (if you know "Harry Potter").
      Always thought it was good stuff. Then, it becomes more clear. Does a quote like:

      "Were there compounds in cocoa that decrease heart risk," says Lichtenstein, "it will be important to identify them, isolate them, and determine the optimal dose and best route to administer them."
      ...sound like it came from Big Pharm ?
      Or Big Pharm's "Final Solution"...

      August 30, 2011 at 13:29 | Report abuse |
    • Tim

      They're taking all the fun out of eating chocolate. It's sweet, delicious, and full of calories. I eat chocolate because it tastes good, not because it may/may not be good for me.

      One out of every one people dies. I'm taking the chocolate with me.

      August 30, 2011 at 14:32 | Report abuse |
  2. charls

    I love the stuff; thankfully chocolate "loves" me back.

    August 29, 2011 at 08:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Hey You

    Chocolate is a health food!

    August 29, 2011 at 09:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Leo

    As with all things... MODERATION, people.

    August 29, 2011 at 09:45 | Report abuse | Reply
    • D

      I have one square a day of 72% cocoa, which is -one third of the "serving size" listed on the bar. I'd like to have more but there is too much fat in it.

      August 29, 2011 at 13:53 | Report abuse |
  5. Glenn

    Moderation kills. what's your definition of moderation? 5 chocolate bars a week instead of 12? "Moderation" is code word for "Lazy". Either eat it or don't. The average American definition of moderation is excess. That's why our "moderation" country became fat. I can't believe people would eat crap and feel like crap than eating well and feeling well. Nothing tastes as good as how healthy feels.

    August 29, 2011 at 10:22 | Report abuse | Reply
    • D

      Sorry for your defective taste buds. I have eaten things that were 0rgasmically good.

      August 29, 2011 at 13:54 | Report abuse |
    • kristi

      i like to feel good and chocolate makes me feel good so score one for chocolate :P

      August 29, 2011 at 17:22 | Report abuse |
  6. KK

    The cardiovascular related benefits they found are probably related to a separate study which demonstrated that people who consume chocolate tend to workout more than those who don't. It makes sense, if you eat something unhealthy, you should workout to compensate for the extra calories. If chocolate does have anti-oxidant effects then it's just a double-bonus!

    August 29, 2011 at 10:32 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Fifi

      Chocolate – especially best-quality chocolate, with high cocoa mass– gives far more satisfaction for fewer calories than, say, a sleeve of cookies or similar junk sweets. People who really appreciate good chocolate are more apt to eat smaller portions of it.

      August 29, 2011 at 15:02 | Report abuse |
    • Selma

      Do, Valentina!No, no! No Drool Please CC!Hi Ashley, now I would, but I know you are moving! Hope it goes well!Hi Jeanine, that's ok! I am glad you like them :)Thank you Haley, I will think about it. I have blbereruies in the fridge.Hi Neen, they would have been like after eights if I had put more mint in. This is actually how I described them to Graham. I do love after eights :P

      September 14, 2012 at 00:58 | Report abuse |
  7. Brian

    Another worthless observational study makes another unfounded conclusion. People need to understand that observing correlations can only be used to form a hypothesis, and never to draw conclusions or recommendations – not even through meta-analysis like this study. What is necessary now is a clinical study. Only then can you determine whether there is an actual cause.

    Shame on the Franco for poor science. Just because it's popular in dietary science to draw conclusions from correlations doesn't mean it's valid.

    August 29, 2011 at 10:37 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Lindsay

      I actually thought the article was pretty good about noting that correlation does not imply causation. It also ended by saying what you just commented, that clinical trials of chocolate are needed to establish any actual benefit from chocolate. So please forgive me if I don't understand why you're complaining.

      August 29, 2011 at 11:49 | Report abuse |
    • D

      II agree with you, Lindsay.

      August 29, 2011 at 13:56 | Report abuse |
    • A scientist

      While there are certainly limits to correlative observational studies, they certainly are not "worthless." While proving causation is difficult with correlative studies (something that the article fairly pointed out), a well-designed correlative study can provide very strong evidence to support a hypothesis. By your logic, we have no evidence that seat belts save lives, because we have never done a double-blind study in which participants are randomly assigned to not wear seat belts.

      Unfortunately, nutritional clinical studies are extremely difficult, because you would have to entirely control the food intake of participants. This can be done (I have been involved in studies where participants need to come to the research site for every meal and snack); the problem is that what it really relevant for nutrition is long-term effects, and obviously it is not feasible to perform such studies for the decades required to monitor such effects. Additionally, people cheat and eat things that they are not supposed to, so even clinical trials have sources of error.

      August 29, 2011 at 14:04 | Report abuse |
    • Tim

      I'd like to throw my name in the ring for the clinical study. Double blind, double dark chocolate.....mmmmmmmm....chocolate....

      August 30, 2011 at 14:35 | Report abuse |
  8. Tia

    Can we please get out of grade school and expand our research capabilities a bit? Cocoa has benefits that have been observed for centuries (even before we contaminated it with sugar and emulsifiers). Cocoa powder can be bought – gasp – sugar free! Stick ONLY with DARK chocolate at 82% or higher; one ounce a day (which is really quiet enough to satisfy). Many "dark" chocolate brands are not really very "dark" at all. Keep it as pure as possible, being sure that the cocoa used is not contaminated with lead (as some is from growing near roads in countries that still allow leaded gas). Be sure the cocoa is harvested fair trade (meaning no slave labor). This matters greatly. A good 82 % dark will cost more, but at one ounce a day, it's a good investment. Also don't depend solely on cocoa. Get LOTS of color from all kinds of fruits and vegetables. The fiber from produce matters just as much as the color.

    August 29, 2011 at 11:50 | Report abuse | Reply
    • GBfromOhio

      Well put ... I think you hit the nail on the head.

      August 29, 2011 at 11:55 | Report abuse |
    • D

      I agree. Also, usually the higher the cocoa percentage, the less I want to eat anyway. It is not addictive like the sweet kind of chocolate.

      August 29, 2011 at 13:58 | Report abuse |
    • ok

      Amen!

      August 30, 2011 at 21:01 | Report abuse |
  9. GBfromOhio

    I eat a couple of squares a day of low sugar, extremely dark chocolate (88%). I've given some to friends and family, at first they could not handle it "too bitter, not sweet enough", but some of them later say "hey, I'm actually liking this, now the candy type of chocolate is too sweet for me". My gut feeling is the low cacao content, milk chocolate has minimal positive health impact.

    August 29, 2011 at 11:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Tia

    Forget to mention in the above note that when purchasing cocoa powder, one can then use STEVIA to sweeten with milk, soy milk, almond milk, etc. Tofu, cocoa and walnut oil can make a nice "mousse" when whipped in a food processor. The 82% comes in when selecting chocolate bars. The higher the number, the less sugar. And the dark is an acquired taste. Test out different brands as each does have a different character. There are many places to get chocolate but the supermarket is probably not going to carry much of an 82% or higher unless you ask them to stock it. You can compare different brands at sites such as Chocosphere.com - look ONLY for 82% – no less. And teeth still need to be rinsed well afterward. If enjoyed with NUTS, that stretches the treat, adds good fats and protein that help balance blood glucose. Again, though, only 82% or higher. It does matter greatly. You'll be surprised that one ounce is all you'll likely want. Enjoy.

    August 29, 2011 at 11:56 | Report abuse | Reply
    • D

      I am pretty much that way with 72%.

      August 29, 2011 at 13:59 | Report abuse |
  11. Teri

    >some resources might now be shifted to exploring the fat and sugar contents of chocolate, and how we might go about lowering them.

    Your fat bias is showing. The body needs fats, the body does not need sugars. Eat 'good' fats in a reasonable amount and cut way back on the sugars and you'll be healthier.

    August 29, 2011 at 12:14 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dave

      The body need essential fatty acids, and cocoa has almost none–about 3% of the fat is linoleic (omega-6). Cocoa fat is about 1/3 stearic acid (sat'd, but neutral effect on blood lipids), 1/3 oleic (mono-unsat'd, neutral effect on blood lipids), and about 25% palmitic (sat'd) which some research has implicated in raising LDL cholesterol. Moderation is likely best, or cocoa powder, as it is far lower in fat than dark chocolate–~14% vs. 43% and you eat a lot less of it.

      August 29, 2011 at 13:03 | Report abuse |
    • KC

      Correct. A colleague went on a totally fat-free diet and after just a few weeks, her skin and hair looked dreadful. Some amount of fat is necessary; most people eat way too much.

      August 29, 2011 at 15:45 | Report abuse |
    • Lautaro

      : আপনার এই কবিতাটি আমার খুব ভালো লেগেছে। আমি এই কবিতাটি সবুজ অঙ্গন লিটলম্যাগের আগামী সংখ্যায় ছাপতে পার? to see details .অবশ্যই যাবে।

      April 8, 2012 at 09:35 | Report abuse |
  12. SMANCometh

    Natural unsweetened cocoa powder from Ghiradelli has 55,653 ORAC. Wild blueberries are around 10,000. Chocolate in its pure form is a superfood beyond compare. Add a little peanut butter and you have a combination for superior absorption of the antioxidants...try it, you will no doubt love it.

    August 29, 2011 at 12:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Dave

    So why the pics of fudge? Half of them are not even chocolate.

    For the ORAC fanatics: don't lose sight of the forest here–chocolate is not going to fix everything that ails you, and besides, free radicals are needed for bodily defenses. Not wise to quench it all. Keep some perspective here.

    August 29, 2011 at 12:32 | Report abuse | Reply
    • D

      Great point on the picture. Also, fudge has a TON of fat.

      August 29, 2011 at 14:01 | Report abuse |
  14. jillmarie

    I use cocoa powder frequently- mixed with bananas which naturally sweetens it. I'd love for them to come out with a reduced fat and sugar chocolate! Sounds like a superfood to me. I'm looking into buying hershey special dark cocoa powder- it's probably delicious.

    August 29, 2011 at 13:00 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dave

      >a reduced fat and sugar chocolate!

      Why wait? Make your own. Melt baker's chocolate and add as much cocoa powder as you want and as much sugar (or Splenda) as desired. Then allow to harden and enjoy–if you can. It may be disgustingly bitter and have a so-so mouthfeel. ;-)

      August 29, 2011 at 13:08 | Report abuse |
    • jillmarie

      No, thanks. I already listed my method with cocoa powder and bananas- I like my healthy idea that works for me, not something that sounds disgusting.

      August 29, 2011 at 13:16 | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      My point was that if you got what you asked for ("I'd love for them to come out with a reduced fat and sugar chocolate! Sounds like a superfood to me."), it would likely be disgusting.

      August 29, 2011 at 13:22 | Report abuse |
  15. John K

    To the dismay of the sports drink industry, it has been shown that drinking low-fat chocolate milk is better for your health AND your athletic performance than Gatorade or any of the sports drinks. You can read about it at: http://wannabuddy.blogspot.com/2011/07/chocolate-milk-and-your-body.html

    August 29, 2011 at 13:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. www.edwardmarc.com

    chocolate potentially the new "superfood?" how exciting... I hope there is more research done on this...

    August 29, 2011 at 13:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Heather

    It's hard to find raw chocolate in a small town, but when I can get my hands on it, it's amazing. I wish it was more widely distributed. I'd probably use it in many dishes, both sweet and savory.

    August 29, 2011 at 14:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. d

    this is just an excuse for fat folks to eat more candy

    August 29, 2011 at 14:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. E

    "Given its apparent health benefits, some resources might now be shifted to exploring the fat and sugar contents of chocolate, and how we might go about lowering them. This new “superfood” would be quite sweet indeed."

    This new superfood is unsweetened cocoa. You can buy it at the grocery store and use it in baking, or drink it with skim milk.

    August 29, 2011 at 14:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Thor

    Just goes to show how much CNN does their research. The research has already been done. There is nothing to be gained if the chocolate you consume is loaded with the usual milk fat and sugar, in fact it can make things worse. You have to eat the pure chocolate for this to work, and that my friends, is not as palatable proposition....

    August 29, 2011 at 14:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Thor

    Chocolate... semi-sweet... about 70% is served best with a red Medec or Cabernet-Sovignon. give more of the chocolate to your girlfriend over candle light. Perhaps even melt some over ripened strawberries and hand feed them to her. You might get some loving thereafter..... The resulting physical activity will result in an elevated heart rate, comperable to any aerobic activity, and the natural release of hormones that provide and equal to any runners high. The result usually is medically proven to be a highly mind-tempering state.....approved by psychologists worldwide.....

    August 29, 2011 at 14:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. randy webster

    all right then! with my chocolate and vodka diet i'll live to 150

    August 29, 2011 at 15:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Jean Andre Vallery

    great news, I have a serious question to present. If Monsanto GM crosses by pollination into the chocolate trees around the world will the health benefit change?

    August 29, 2011 at 17:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. ADEBAYO Michael

    yeap am so glad to hear dis

    August 29, 2011 at 17:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Jay Walsh

    Looks like the doctors in Woody Allen's The Sleeper were right:
    "You mean there was no deep fat? No steak or cream pies or... hot fudge? "
    "Those were thought to be unhealthy... precisely the opposite of what we now know to be true. "

    August 29, 2011 at 17:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Drinker

    How about pure cocoa capsules? Wouldn't that be a better alternative than the sugar and fat in chocolate?

    August 29, 2011 at 17:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. ms

    "Given its apparent health benefits, some resources might now be shifted to exploring the fat and sugar contents of chocolate, and how we might go about lowering them." Do you have any evidence that chocolate would have the same effect without as much fat and sugar?

    August 29, 2011 at 18:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Sally Thornton

    i HAVE ALWAYS LOVED CHOCOLATE AND IF IT IS GOOD FOR BLOOD PRESSURE I'M FOR IT. HOWEVER, EVERYBODY KNOWS TO MUCH OF A GOOD THING IS NOT GOOD FOR YOU. EVERYTHING IN MODERATION.

    August 29, 2011 at 20:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. RON

    This is great news. I love chocolate.

    August 29, 2011 at 22:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. RON

    Also Sally.......... It's too much not to much.

    August 29, 2011 at 22:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • IxNay

      humbug on the grammar police

      August 30, 2011 at 12:03 | Report abuse |
  31. Peter

    The last three (3) paragraphs of this write-up say it all. What's this fuss about chocolate! We better watch out!

    August 29, 2011 at 22:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Vitaliy

    I can't wait until they say that plants love electrolytes. Idiots.

    August 30, 2011 at 02:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. joan

    I can't belive all of u,its plain reserch that still needs workin on,positive critcim is best or else hoow do we acheive anything! That said,we all know that chocolate is bad especially in large proportion,dark or milky chocolate,cocoa or th rest(age long historical fact)my advice is:don't be fooled just yet give room for more research but for now am not fooled,fat in some parts of a womans body once added is very dificult to letgo off

    August 30, 2011 at 07:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Leon

    They had me at queef.

    August 30, 2011 at 11:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. 69ster

    I snort the cocoa powder like a man

    August 30, 2011 at 11:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Salem Hawatmeh

    This article also needs to include the benefits of chocolate. A recent study conducted at the University of California, San Diego further analyzes the effects of chocolate on humans. Granted, this article has a positive outlook on chocolate: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/08/03/how-chocolate-can-help-your-workout/

    August 30, 2011 at 11:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. IxNay

    By chocolate, they are not talking about that delicious milk chocolate stuff pictured above, or white chocolate, which is not chocolate at all. They are talking about semi sweet to bitter chocolate, something like baker's chocolate. I am not a big chocolate fan, but I like it once in awhile. Still, this is like saying coffee is good for you and showing a Starbuck's strawberry cream frappuccino as an example of what you can indulge in ... mmmmmm

    August 30, 2011 at 12:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. ok

    Great, give people more excuses to stuff their fat faces CNN!

    August 30, 2011 at 20:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Blogson

    Who paid for the study??

    August 31, 2011 at 14:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. geraldina

    NOT me!

    September 12, 2011 at 20:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Scott

    I love chocolate and eat it all the time, but it feels like the people writing these Pro-Chocolate articles are just trying to market chocolate.

    September 27, 2011 at 01:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. David

    Casi casi lelgamos!! espero que la próxima podamos elaborar un mejor proyecto. Queria comentar que en el proyecto de "Infusión", Isabel Godoy está mal escrito, puesto que "Isabel Godoy" es masculino, se llama Isbelio Godoy. Gracias por la mención!Mariano F. e Isbelio G.Los Muralistas

    February 1, 2012 at 01:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. ucbvhnsdy

    oogFwy bcdkwupwefkr

    February 6, 2012 at 04:21 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Cah

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      April 8, 2012 at 14:16 | Report abuse |
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    April 10, 2012 at 12:46 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.