Cardiovascular Disease and Chocolate




American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

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Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a group of disorders that affect the heart and blood vessels. These disorders include hypertension, coronary heart disease, stroke, peripheral vascular disease, heart failure, rheumatic heart disease, atherosclerosis, congenital heart disease, and cardiomypathies. Arteries that become clogged from a build up of fats and cholesterol will eventually cause heart and blood vessel problems.

Cardiovascular disease is the number 1 killer in the United States, claiming 949,619 lives in1998 alone. The most recent statistical update for 2001 from the American Heart Association states that 60,800,000 Americans have one or more types of cardiovascular disease with a total cost factor of over $298.2 billion.

Factors that may put an individual at risk for CVD could be hereditary, high levels of cholesterol, high blood pressure, smoking, stress, age, sex and ethnic background. Lowering the risk of developing heart disease involves lifestyle changes such as eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, losing excess weight and stopping smoking.1

A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition was designed to investigate any possible benefits chocolate may have on cardiovascular disease. Researchers conducted a randomized, 2-period crossover study in 23 healthy subjects fed 2 different diets. One group of participants was given an average American diet controlled for fiber, caffeine and theobromine. The other group was provided an average American diet that was supplemented with 22gm cocoa powder and 16gm dark chocolate. The study was designed to determine what effects dark chocolate and cocoa powder may have on oxidation of LDL cholesterol, total antioxidant levels and concentrations of urinary prostaglandins. The results of the study were in favor of the benefits of chocolate. Authors concluded that “cocoa powder and dark chocolate may favorably affect cardiovascular disease risk status by modestly reducing LDL oxidation susceptibility, increasing serum total antioxidant capacity and HDL-cholesterol concentrations, and not adversely affecting prostaglandins.”2


1. Pearson TA. Alcolhol and heart disease. Circulation. 1996;94:3023-3025.
2. Wan Y, Vinson JA, Etherton TD, Proch J, Lazarus SA,Kris-Etherton PM. Effects of cocoa powder and dark chocolate on LDL oxidative susceptibility and prostaglandin concentrations in humans. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 74. Nov2001;5:596-602.