Chocolate lovers have a reason to smile after researchers at Cambridge University in the UK, reported that eating more chocolate could reduce the risk of developing heart disease by 37 per cent.
The researchers compiled data from seven studies involving about 114,000 people.
The new study published, this week, in the British Medical Journal, confirms that chocolate may be good for the brain as well.
Researchers also found that people who consumed the most chocolate had a 29 percent lower risk of suffering a stroke than those who consumed less.
The report said: "Cocoa products containing flavonol have been known to have an encouraging potential to help prevent cardio-metabolic disorders."
Florence Mutesi, a chocoholic in Kigali, was reassured by the new findings.
“I love chocolate but I have been limiting what I take because I thought it was unhealthy. Thanks to the researchers who have highlighted the contrary – it gives me green light to consume more now,” Mutesi said.
“Sometimes I wanted to buy confectionaries for my nieces, nephews and other children but I would refrain but now I don’t need to worry much.”
The authors admit that they were not able to identify the exact quantity of chocolate to consume or the frequency.
However, some doctors are cagey about the findings.
Dr. Joseph Mucumbitsi, chairman of the Rwandan Heart Foundation warned that people should be very cautious, adding that much more significant conclusions were needed.
“They could not determine the exact quantity, or dose, of the chocolate that we need to consume in order to get protection. We really have to be cautious with the results. Actually, one researcher says it doesn’t mean that chocolate cannot be harmful,” Dr. Mucumbitsi said.
The cardiac paediatrician maintains that chocolate leads to obesity, which is a cause of heart diseases.
“Chocolate is very caloric. There is a lot of sugar in there and thus, like in everything, abuse is going to be harmful. It would be wrong to eat 500 grams every day. The study needs deeper research. Don’t just take it literally,” Dr. Mucumbitsi noted.
Dr. Christian Ntizimira, the acting Director of Kibagabaga Hospital, is equally cautious.
“Because of the sugar in it, chocolate leads to weight gain and we know when you gain weight, it's a risk factor for heart disease and hypertension. So, how can chocolate reduce or prevent heart disease?” he wondered.
“It seems contradictory. If chocolate reduces the risk of heart disease, then the side effects will be becoming overweight which is also not good”.
The authors of the research also warn that "moderation is key," as eating too much chocolate can still lead to harmful effects, especially in popular, commercialised products that contain high sugar and fat which could lead to weight gain, a higher risk of hypertension, diabetes and general cardiovascular disorders.