Effects of Dark Chocolate and Almonds on Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Overweight and Obese Individuals: A Randomized Controlled-Feeding Trial

J Am Heart Assoc. 2017 Nov 29;6(12):e005162. doi: 10.1161/JAHA.116.005162.


Background: Consumption of almonds or dark chocolate and cocoa has favorable effects on markers of coronary heart disease; however, the combined effects have not been evaluated in a well-controlled feeding study. The aim of this study was to examine the individual and combined effects of consumption of dark chocolate and cocoa and almonds on markers of coronary heart disease risk.

Methods and results: A randomized controlled, 4-period, crossover, feeding trial was conducted in overweight and obese individuals aged 30 to 70 years. Forty-eight participants were randomized, and 31 participants completed the entire study. Each diet period was 4 weeks long, followed by a 2-week compliance break. Participants consumed each of 4 isocaloric, weight maintenance diets: (1) no treatment foods (average American diet), (2) 42.5 g/d of almonds (almond diet [ALD]), (3) 18 g/d of cocoa powder and 43 g/d of dark chocolate (chocolate diet [CHOC]), or (4) all 3 foods (CHOC+ALD). Compared with the average American diet, total cholesterol, non-high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol after the ALD were lower by 4%, 5%, and 7%, respectively (P<0.05). The CHOC+ALD decreased apolipoprotein B by 5% compared with the average American diet. For low-density lipoprotein subclasses, compared with the average American diet, the ALD showed a greater reduction in large buoyant low-density lipoprotein particles (-5.7±2.3 versus -0.3±2.3 mg/dL; P=0.04), whereas the CHOC+ALD had a greater decrease in small dense low-density lipoprotein particles (-12.0±2.8 versus -5.3±2.8 mg/dL; P=0.04). There were no significant differences between diets for measures of vascular health and oxidative stress.

Conclusions: Our results demonstrate that consumption of almonds alone or combined with dark chocolate under controlled-feeding conditions improves lipid profiles. Incorporating almonds, dark chocolate, and cocoa into a typical American diet without exceeding energy needs may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.

Clinical trial registration: URL: https://www.clinicaltrials.gov. Unique identifier: NCT01882881.

Keywords: almonds; cardiovascular disease risk factors; dark chocolate; flow‐mediated dilation; lipids and lipoproteins.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Chocolate*
  • Cholesterol, HDL / blood
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / blood
  • Obesity / complications
  • Obesity / diet therapy*
  • Overweight / blood
  • Overweight / complications
  • Overweight / diet therapy*
  • Pennsylvania / epidemiology
  • Prognosis
  • Prunus dulcis*
  • Risk Assessment*
  • Risk Factors


  • Cholesterol, HDL

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01882881