The Shocking Claim:
So I have this friend Lonni that I have known since way back in Kindergarten. Growing up, Lonni was literally obsessed with chocolate. In seventh grade, her Bat Mitzvah was a chocolate extravaganza, “Lonni’s Chocolate World”. Up for grabs she had every chocolatey candy that you could think of. All the kids went home with a hardy goody bag of chocolates to take home and indulge in IN ADDITION to all of the chocolate that they probably ate during the party. What if I told you that all of those little chocoholics were aiding their hearts in preventing a deadly disease? Do you know how happy Lonni would be if i told her that eating lots of chocolate just might be beneficial for her health? Well, there is a chance that it might just be her lucky day! I came across an article that argues that eating an abundant amount of chocolate may decrease one’s risk of heart disease.
- Chocolate Consumption → Lower Risk of Heart Disease (direct causality)……what is believed to be happening
- Chocolate Consumption ← Lower Risk of Heart Disease (reverse causality)….this is ruled out… having a lower risk of heart disease likely does not cause heavy chocolate consumption
- Chocolate Consumption ← Z → Lower risk of Heart Disease (Confounding/3rd Variable)…. I cannot think of possible z-variable that would lead to both chocolate consumption and a lowered risk of heart disease because frankly, I’m no doctor…. There would need to be more published studies for me to have a possibility (accepting of any suggestions!)
- Chance…always can be a possibility
As proclaimed by authors of the British Medical Journal, chocolate contains antioxidants and functions that relieve swelling, lower blood pressure, and level out insulin rates. I don’t know about you, but this sounds a little too good to be true. In fact, Dr. Oscar Franco, and his fellow scientists at the University of Cambridge had the same skepticism and did further analyzations on this claim. Their observations included seven large studies that showcased various levels of chocolate intake in relation to patients suffering with and without heart disease. After comparing the people with the lowest amount of chocolate eaten and the highest amount of chocolate eaten, they determined which of those same people were patients with heart diseases and calculated any reduction.
5/7 studies → supported evidence that chocolate consumption decreases heart disease risks
Eats a lot of chocolate → 37% less heart disease, 29% less stroke
Although those are some whopping reduction percentages, and I’m no doctor to voice an educated opinion, I’m not sure how reliable I find this meta-analysis. Like I said previously: 1. I’m not a doctor and 2. Because I’m not a doctor, I don’t know any possible confounding variables off of the top of my head. However, I am led to believe that there is some sort of mechanism behind a 3rd variable linking the relationship between heavy chocolate consumption and lowered risk of heart disease (I’m quite flabbergasted by the results if you couldn’t tell).
Advice and More Thoughts:
Cardiovascular diseases do not mess around, and I personally do not trust the supporting evidence enough to essentially use chocolate as a form of preventive medicine. I don’t even think Lonni would fall for such a risky thing (no matter how bad she wants to). The thing that worries me that was not taken into consideration in any of the studies that they analyzed is that although chocolate may potentially benefit specific heart health, the treat does not have a squeaky clean history. It’s no secret that if not eaten in moderation chocolate can lead to diabetes, high cholesterol, weight gain, cavities, etc. This confuses me even more because the saturated fat in chocolate causes a build up in the blood stream and/or arteries, and high cholesterol can lead to heart disease….so it’s essentially a chain reaction that does exactly the opposite of benefiting. That would mean that an overindulgence in chocolate would actually cause the heart disease rather than diminish it. I AM CONFUSED. These supposedly professional level doctors are actually supporting a claim that promotes an abundant consumption of chocolate– a sweet that we were raised being told not to eat too much of. If you’re basing your opinion off the numbers, then yeah sure, go crazy– take a visit to Lonni’s Chocolate World. However if you know what is good for you, you would realize that there just isn’t enough supporting evidence behind this hypothesis and although the numbers are convincing, chance will always still be a possible causation. The deadly danger of heart disease is just not something that you mess with chance for. Sorry, Lon, not today. Moderation is key.
P.S. It’d be one thing if the studies were addressing pure dark chocolate…maybe I would be a bit more understanding (I would never eat dark chocolate in bulk. Bleh!)… but the BMJ article even clarifies that the studies are not narrowed to a specific kind of chocolate or sweetness.