Regular, moderate chocolate intake could lower the risk of diabetes and heart disease, a study suggests.

Chocolates, given its high fat and sugar content, have been linked to health problems such as tooth decay and obesity, especially when consumed in excessive amounts.

However, numerous studies suggest that regular and moderate consumption, particularly of dark chocolate, may have beneficial effects on health.

Since dark chocolates have the highest cocoa content, these also contain high levels of antioxidants known as flavonoids that can prevent some forms of cellular damage.

The researchers wanted to determine the effect of chocolate intake in insulin resistance and in liver enzyme levels.

For their study, the researchers gathered data from the Observation of Cardiovascular Risk in Luxembourg (ORISCAV-LUX) and analysed the chocolate consumption of 1,153 participants aged 18-69 by completing a food frequency questionnaire.

Analysis of data showed that there is a daily average chocolate consumption of 24.8 grams in 81.8 percent of the participants.

Those who ate chocolate daily showed a decrease in insulin resistance and improved liver enzyme levels, compared to those who did not. There was also a stronger effect seen in those with higher chocolate consumption.

The researchers also noted that coffee and tea intake could also boost the effect of chocolate on cardiometabolic risk.

Professor Saverio Stranges, co-author of the study says, “Given the growing body of evidence, including our own study, cocoa-based products may represent an additional dietary recommendation to improve cardiometabolic health; however, observational results need to be supported by robust trial evidence. Potential applications of this knowledge include recommendations by healthcare professionals to encourage individuals to consume a wide range of phytochemical-rich foods, which can include dark chocolate in moderate amounts.”

Principal Investigator of the study, Dr Ala'a Alkerwi, states, “It is also possible that chocolate consumption may represent an overall marker for a cluster of favourable socio-demographic profiles, healthier lifestyle behaviours and better health status. This could explain, at least in part, the observed inverse associations with insulin and liver biomarkers.”

However, Professor Stranges reminds the importance of distinguishing chocolates containing natural cocoa and processed chocolates that are higher in calories.

He also stressed that, “Therefore, physical activity, diet and other lifestyle factors must be carefully balanced to avoid detrimental weight gain over time.”

In conclusion, researchers recommend further observational studies and randomised controlled trials are needed to understand the role of chocolate in insulin resistance and cardiometabolic disorders. MIMS