MONDAY, Aug. 16 (HealthDay News) -- Eating a small amount of
high-quality dark chocolate one to three times a month may help
stave off heart failure in women, a new Harvard study suggests.
But if you ingest too much "good" chocolate, that protective
effect goes away, according to the researchers who report their
finding in the Aug. 17 issue of
Circulation: Heart Failure.
"At least for women, consumption of chocolate seems to be associated with a decreased risk of heart failure, but the protective effect was only seen with relatively small amounts of consumption, less than one serving a day," said senior study author Dr. Murray Mittleman. "With higher levels, the benefit appears to be lost and perhaps even [have] a detrimental effect."
While the redeeming health qualities of chocolate have been
extolled before, other studies had not specifically looked at heart
failure, Mittleman said.
"Up until now, [researchers] were focused on other outcomes, such as the effects on blood pressure and other things," he explained.
And those studies did find that moderate amounts of chocolate do
seem to lower blood pressure.
"The beneficial effects on blood pressure are likely an important part of the mechanisms of what we're observing," said Mittleman, who is director of the Cardiovascular Epidemiology Research Unit at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center at Harvard Medical School in Boston.
The study authors studied the chocolate-eating habits of 31,823
Swedish women, aged 48 to 83, reported over a period of nine
Women who ate one to three servings of chocolate (20 to 30
grams) a month had a 32 percent reduced risk of heart failure,
compared to women who did not eat the sweet regularly. More
chocolate than that (one to two servings a week), and the benefit
disappeared, while much more than that (three to six servings a
week), and the risk actually increased by 23 percent.
"Chocolate is still very calorie-dense, and there's fat and sugar that comes along with it, so moderation is a very important part of the story," Mittleman said.
Chocolate in Sweden is held to different quality standards than
in the United States, but there are still characteristics one
should look for when choosing chocolate, Mittleman said.
The chocolate measured in this study was mostly high-quality
dark chocolate without a lot of added sugar, though it was
commercially available, he said.
And the higher the cocoa content, the better. The cocoa content
of the chocolate consumed by the women in this study was about 30
percent whereas, in the United States, dark chocolate is only
required to contain 15 percent cocoa solids.
And 20 to 30 grams would be about half-to-two-thirds of an
average American candy bar, Mittleman said.
The heart benefit of dark chocolate could be the result of any
number of factors, including more flavanoids, or antioxidants, that
can smooth heart function.
Mittleman said there's no reason that the benefits of chocolate
wouldn't extend to men as well, but this still needs to be
Linda Van Horn, immediate past chair of the American Heart
Association's Nutrition Committee and professor in the Department
of Preventive Medicine at Northwestern University's Feinberg School
of Medicine in Chicago, said people shouldn't misinterpret the
study findings as a carte blanche to satisfy their sweet tooth.
"This is not an 'eat all you want' take-home message, rather it's that eating a little dark chocolate can be healthful, as long as other adverse behaviors do not occur, such as weight gain or excessive intake of non-nutrient dense 'empty' calories," she said in a news release issued by the American Heart Association.
Interestingly, an Australian study released last week found that
patients would actually prefer taking a pill than chocolate when it
comes to controlling blood pressure.
American Heart Association has more on heart
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Copyright © EBSCO Publishing. All rights reserved.