BACKGROUND: The consumption of chocolate and cocoa has established cardiovascular benefits. Less is known about the effects of chocolate on arterial stiffness, a marker of subclinical cardiovascular disease. The aim of this study was to investigate whether chocolate intakes are independently associated with pulse wave velocity (PWV), after adjustment for cardiovascular, lifestyle and dietary factors.
METHODS: Prospective analyses were undertaken on 508 community-dwelling participants (mean age 61 years, 60% women) from the Maine-Syracuse Longitudinal Study (MSLS). Habitual chocolate intakes, measured using a food frequency questionnaire, were related to PWV, measured approximately 5 years later.
RESULTS: Chocolate intake was significantly associated with PWV in a non-linear fashion with the highest levels of PWV in those who never or rarely ate chocolate and lowest levels in those who consumed chocolate once a week. This pattern of results remained and was not attenuated after multivariate adjustment for diabetes, cardiovascular risk factors and dietary variables (p = 0.002).
CONCLUSIONS: Weekly chocolate intake may be of benefit to arterial stiffness. Further studies are needed to explore the underlying mechanisms that may mediate the observed effects of habitual chocolate consumption on arterial stiffness.