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Effects of cocoa products/dark chocolate on serum lipids: a meta-analysis


Cocoa products, which are rich sources of flavonoids, have been shown to reduce blood pressure and the risk of cardiovascular disease. Dark chocolate contains saturated fat and is a source of dietary calories; consequently, it is important to determine whether consumption of dark chocolate adversely affects the blood lipid profile. The objective was to examine the effects of dark chocolate/cocoa product consumption on the lipid profile using published trials. A detailed literature search was conducted via MEDLINE (from 1966 to May 2010), CENTRAL and for randomized controlled clinical trials assessing the effects of flavanol-rich cocoa products or dark chocolate on lipid profile. The primary effect measure was the difference in means of the final measurements between the intervention and control groups. In all, 10 clinical trials consisting of 320 participants were included in the analysis. Treatment duration ranged from 2 to 12 weeks. Intervention with dark chocolate/cocoa products significantly reduced serum low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and total cholesterol (TC) levels (differences in means (95% CI) were −5.90 mg/dl (−10.47, −1.32 mg/dl) and −6.23 mg/dl (−11.60, −0.85 mg/dl), respectively). No statistically significant effects were observed for high-density lipoprotein (HDL) (difference in means (95% CI): −0.76 mg/dl (−3.02 to 1.51 mg/dl)) and triglyceride (TG) (−5.06 mg/dl (−13.45 to 3.32 mg/dl)). These data are consistent with beneficial effects of dark chocolate/cocoa products on total and LDL cholesterol and no major effects on HDL and TG in short-term intervention trials.

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We thank Dr Emad Al-Dujaili, Department of Dietetics, Nutrition and Biological Sciences, Queen Margaret University, UK; and Dr PRC Rowe, ATN Center for Metabolic Fitness, School of Health Sciences, University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia for kindly providing details of their lipid profile measurements upon request by us.

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Tokede, O., Gaziano, J. & Djoussé, L. Effects of cocoa products/dark chocolate on serum lipids: a meta-analysis. Eur J Clin Nutr 65, 879–886 (2011).

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