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Introduction

Chocolate is a food product that comes from the cacao tree. It comes in bars, powders, and sauces. Dark chocolate and cacao have been used to improve heart function and lower both cholesterol and blood pressure. It can also be taken as an extract or tea. Chocolate can also be applied to the skin as a scrub or paste and has been used to brighten skin.

Dosages

50 to 100 grams daily.

What Research Shows

Likely Effective

  • Cardiometabolic disorders—likely to reduce the risk of cardiometabolic disorders A1
  • Cardiovascular disease (CVD)—likely to reduce the risk of CVD and improve insulin resistance and blood flow in people with CVD B1-B6
  • Coronary heart disease—likely to decrease the risk of coronary heart disease
  • Diabetes—likely to reduce the risk of diabetes D1
  • Heart failure—likely to decrease the risk of heart failure G1 High blood pressure—likely to lower blood pressure E1-E3
  • High Cholesterol—likely to lower total and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol F1
  • Myocardial infarction—likely to lower the risk of myocardial infarction H1
  • Stroke—likely to decrease the risk of stroke I1-I3

Not Enough Data to Assess

  • Cognitive function C1

Editorial process and description of evidence categories can be found at EBSCO NAT Editorial Process.

Safety Notes

It is likely safe to use chocolate on the skin and to take it orally in small doses for a short time. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid excessive intake of chocolate. Not enough studies have been done to say whether it is safe to use for a long period.

Interactions

Talk to your doctor about any supplements or therapy you would like to use. Some can interfere with treatment or make conditions worse, such as:

  • People taking blood thinners should talk to their doctor before using chocolate. It may interact with the medicine.
 

References

A. A. Cardiometabolic Disorders

A1. A1. Buitrago-Lopez A, Sanderson J, et al. Chocolate consumption and cardiometabolic disorders: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ. 2011 Aug 26;343:d4488.

B. B. Cardiovascular Disease

B1. B1. Shrime MG, Bauer SR, et al. Flavonoid-rich cocoa consumption affects multiple cardiovascular risk factors in a meta-analysis of short-term studies. J Nutr. 2011 Nov;141(11):1982-1988.

B2. B2. Hooper L, Kay C, et al. Effects of chocolate, cocoa, and flavan-3-ols on cardiovascular health: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized trials. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012;95(3):740-751.

B3. B3. Kwok CS, Boekholdt SM, et al. Habitual chocolate consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease among healthy men and women. Heart. 2015 Aug;101(16):1279-1287.

B4. B4. Larsson SC, Åkesson A, et al. Chocolate consumption and risk of myocardial infarction: a prospective study and meta-analysis. Heart. 2016 Jul 1;102(13):1017-1022.

B5. B5. Yuan S, Li X, et al. Chocolate Consumption and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease, Stroke, and Diabetes: A Meta-Analysis of Prospective Studies. Nutrients. 2017 Jul 2;9(7). pii: E688.

B6. B6. Ren Y, Liu Y, et al. Chocolate consumption and risk of cardiovascular diseases: a meta-analysis of prospective studies. Heart. 2019 Jan;105(1):49-55.

C. C. Cognitive Function

C1. C1. Scholey A, Owen L. Effects of chocolate on cognitive function and mood: a systematic review. Nutr Rev. 2013 Oct;71(10):665-81.

D. D. Diabetes

D1. D1. Yuan S, Li X, et al. Chocolate Consumption and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease, Stroke, and Diabetes: A Meta-Analysis of Prospective Studies. Nutrients. 2017 Jul 2;9(7). pii: E688.

E. E. High Blood Pressure

E1. E1. Ried K, Sullivan T, et al. Does chocolate reduce blood pressure? A meta-analysis. BMC Med. 2010;8:39.

E2. E2. Borghi C, Cicero AF. Nutraceuticals with a clinically detectable blood pressure-lowering effect: a review of available randomized clinical trials and their meta-analyses. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2017 Jan;83(1):163-171.

E3. E3. Ried K, Fakler P, et al. Effect of cocoa on blood pressure. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2017 Apr 25;4:CD008893.

F. F. High Cholesterol

F1. F1. Tokede OA, Gaziano JM, et al. Effects of cocoa products/dark chocolate on serum lipids: a meta-analysis. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2011;65(8):879-886.

G. G. Heart Failure

G1. G1. Gong F, Yao S, et al. Chocolate Consumption and Risk of Heart Failure: A Meta-Analysis of Prospective Studies. Nutrients. 2017 Apr 20;9(4). pii: E402.

H. Myocardial Infarction

H1. H1. Larsson SC, Åkesson A, et al. Chocolate consumption and risk of myocardial infarction: a prospective study and meta-analysis. Heart. 2016 Jul 1;102(13):1017-1022.

I. I. Stroke

I1. I1. Larsson SC, Virtamo J, et al. Chocolate consumption and risk of stroke: a prospective cohort of men and meta-analysis. Neurology. 2012 Sep 18;79(12):1223-1229.

I2. I2. Yuan S, Li X, et al. Chocolate Consumption and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease, Stroke, and Diabetes: A Meta-Analysis of Prospective Studies. Nutrients. 2017 Jul 2;9(7). pii: E688.

I3. I3. Deng C, Lu Q, et al. Stroke and food groups: an overview of systematic reviews and meta-analyses. Public Health Nutr. 2018 Mar;21(4):766-776.

Last reviewed May 2020 by EBSCO NAT Review Board Eric Hurwitz, DC  Last Updated: 6/16/2020