Although epidemiological studies have examined the role of chocolate in preventing cardiometabolic disease, the results remain inconsistent. Herein, we conducted a meta-analysis of prospective studies to determine the association between chocolate intake and risk of coronary heart disease (CHD), stroke, and diabetes. A systematical search in PubMed and Embase through March 2017, together with reference scrutiny of relevant literatures, was performed to identify eligible studies. Relative risks (RRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were pooled using random effect models. Fourteen prospective studies of primary prevention with 508,705 participants were finally included, with follow-up durations ranging from 5 to 16 years. The summary RRs for the highest versus lowest chocolate consumption were 0.90 (95% CI: 0.82-0.97; n = 6) for CHD, 0.84 (95% CI: 0.78-0.90; n = 7) for stroke, and 0.82 (95% CI: 0.70-0.96; n = 5) for diabetes. Dose-response meta-analysis suggested a nonlinear association of chocolate consumption with all outcomes. For both CHD and stroke, there was little additional risk reduction when consuming chocolate ≥3 servings/week (one serving was defined as 30 g of chocolate). For diabetes, the peak protective effect of chocolate emerged at 2 servings/week (RR: 0.75, 95% CI: 0.63-0.89), with no benefit observed when increasing consumption above 6 servings/week. In conclusion, chocolate intake is associated with decreased risks of CHD, stroke, and diabetes. Consuming chocolate in moderation (≤6 servings/week) may be optimal for preventing these disorders.
Keywords: chocolate consumption; coronary heart disease; diabetes; meta-analysis; stroke.