Before you reach for another piece of chocolate, the National Heart Foundation is warning that eating the tasty treat is not necessarily the way to a healthier heart.
The call comes after a study in the British Medical Journal claimed that chocolate could cut heart disease by about a third.
Echoing the words of the study authors themselves, the Heart Foundation warned that eating lots of chocolate would literally outweigh the benefits.
“Eating too much chocolate can lead to weight gain and an increased risk of heart disease,” Ms Susan Anderson, National Director of Healthy Weight at the Heart Foundation said.
The study, by Cambridge University scientists in the UK, re-confirmed the widely touted beneficial relationship between chocolate and heart.
The researchers reviewed results of 7 studies involving more than 100,000 people. Five of those found a beneficial link between higher levels of chocolate consumption and a reduced 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 lowest levels.” No significant reduction was found in relation to heart failure.
But the authors said more study was needed as they could not be certain if it was the chocolate or some other confounding factor that was responsible for the reduced risk.
Ms Anderson said “Chocolate is often credited with having a positive influence on health due to its antioxidant properties." But she added, with about 500 calories in every 100gms, "there are much better ways to get those benefits without the unhealthy saturated fat and kilojoules that come with chocolate.”
“A little chocolate is okay as part of a balanced diet, but if you’re eating it thinking you’re reducing your risk of heart disease, then think again,” she urged.
“The best way to get enough antioxidants is to eat a variety of plant based foods, such as vegetables, fruit, legumes, wholegrain breads and cereals as well as nuts and seeds every day.”
The Heart Foundation does not recommend eating chocolate (milk or dark), drinking coffee, red wine or other types of alcoholic drinks or using antioxidant supplements, such as vitamins E and C to prevent or treat heart disease.
For more information about the Heart Foundation’s research into antioxidants, visit www.heartfoundation.org.au/antioxidants