Good News: Dark Chocolate is NOT Your Guilty Pleasure!

Chocolate may not be a guilty pleasure after all!  For all you chocolate lovers out there, Dark Chocolate may combat unhealthy cholesterol…Sweet!

A review of 10 studies about chocolate consumption and cholesterol reports the cocoa found in dark chocolate is linked to significant reductions in total and LDL (“lousy”) cholesterol.

In this collection of 10 studies, there were a combined total of 320 participants. They looked at flavanols, which seem to give cocoa its healthy effects. Half the participants consumed more than 500 mg daily of the flavanols and half consumed less than 500 mg daily.

Consumption of dark chocolate was linked to average reductions of 6.23 mg/dL in total cholesterol and 5.9 mg/dL in LDL. There was no apparent effect on healthy HDL cholesterol or triglycerides. Eating dark chocolate seemed more beneficial than drinking cocoa-containing beverages.

This is not the first analysis to find a link between cocoa consumption and cholesterol improvements. A similar review published in 2010 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found cocoa consumption significantly LDL cholesterol, by an average of 5.87 mg/dL.

It is great news these cholesterol benefits were observed despite the saturated fat and calories contained in chocolate. 

What are Flavanols?

Flavanols are powerful antioxidants. 

How does the dark chocolate lower choleserol?

The flavanols from the cocoa in dark chocolate are thought to inhibit cholesterol absorption as well as the body's receptors for LDL cholesterol.  It may also be the saturated fat in chocolate is different from that implicated in boosting unhealthy cholesterol. 

Stearic acid makes up 33% of the total fat in cocoa butter and more than half the saturated fat.  Some lipid experts think stearic acid is a ‘neutral’ saturated fat as it does not appear to increase LDL.

Bottom Line:  The findings suggest this indulgent treat can reasonably be included in a heart-heathy diet--- in small amounts that do not increase body weight.  

In Health and Happiness,

Kelly Harrington, MS, RDN

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for Healthy Goods



1.  O A Tokede, J M Gaziano, L Djousse.  Effects of cocoa products/dark chocolate on serum lipids:  a meta-analysis.  European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, August 2011:879-886.

2.  Lei Jia, Xuan Liu, Yong Yi Bai et al.  Short-term effect of cocoa product consumption on lipid profile:  a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.  American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, July 2010 vol. 92 no. 1:218-225.




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