For young and old alike, chocolate is a very popular product. According to a study published by the European Society of Cardiology, the latter would be beneficial for heart health and more specifically for the coronary arteries. On the condition, however, to limit the quantities: once a week would be sufficient.

If chocolate is above all synonymous with pleasure and conviviality, it is also credited with many virtues because this food, which is best enjoyed at Easter or at the end of the year, ranks among the best for helping to fight against free radicals. A study by researchers at Baylor College of Medicine (Texas) and published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology (a journal of the European Society of Cardiology) gives another good reason to take advantage: it suggests that consuming chocolate at least once a week is linked to a reduced risk of heart disease. Specifically, chocolate is said to help keep the heart's blood vessels healthy.

“In the past, clinical studies have shown that chocolate benefits both blood pressure and the lining of blood vessels. I wanted to see whether or not this affects the blood vessels supplying the heart (the coronary arteries). And if so, is it beneficial or harmful? Explains Dr Chayakrit Krittanawong who conducted the study. The researchers conducted a synthesis of studies conducted over the past five decades on the association between chocolate consumption and coronary heart disease. It is one of the most common cardiovascular diseases characterized by narrowing or blockage of the coronary arteries.

Better to focus on quality than quantity

Their analysis included six studies with a total of 336,289 participants who reported their chocolate consumption. During a follow-up of almost nine years, 14,043 participants developed coronary artery disease and 4,667 had a heart attack (when coronary artery disease progresses and blood flow to the heart is suddenly blocked). Scientists found that consuming chocolate more than once per week was associated with an 8% lower risk of coronary heart disease compared to less consumption. The reason is already known: chocolate is very rich in antioxidant molecules.

"Chocolate contains heart-healthy nutrients such as flavonoids, methylxanthines, polyphenols and stearic acid which can reduce inflammation and increase 'good' cholesterol (high density lipoprotein also known as HDL cholesterol)," adds Dr Dr Krittanawong. Indeed, this "good" cholesterol (as opposed to LDL cholesterol called "bad cholesterol") has the role of preventing the formation of atherosclerotic plaques on the wall of the arteries: it brings the excess cholesterol accumulated in the arteries to the liver. organs so that it is eliminated there. However, the researchers did not examine in detail whether one type of chocolate is more beneficial than another.

So, while "chocolate shows promise for preventing coronary heart disease, more research is needed to determine the amount and type of chocolate recommended," they add. Since the optimum amount of chocolate is not established, they warn against overconsumption of this high calorie food which should not be abused. “Moderate amounts seem to protect the coronary arteries, but it's likely that large amounts don't. Calories, sugar, milk and fat in commercial products must be taken into account, especially in diabetics and obese people ”, they conclude.