Easter Bunny may save your life
Just in time for those chocolate Easter eggs, a big new study offers yet more evidence that chocolate is not only good, but also good for you.
A growing body of evidence has been accumulating that cocoa and chocolate may have a variety of health benefits, especially for the heart. But the evidence from large studies that have followed people for years has been mixed.
In the new study, published in the European Heart Journal, researchers at the German Institute of Human Nutrition in Nuthetal, Germany, analyzed data collected from 19,357 adults ages 35 to 65 about their diets and their risk for heart attacks and strokes.
Those who ate the most chocolate -- an average of about 7.5 grams per day -- had lower blood pressure and a 39 percent lower risk of having a heart attack or stroke compared with those who ate the least amount of chocolate -- an average of 1.7 grams per day.
Based on the findings, the researchers estimate that if the people who eat the least chocolate increased their chocolate consumption by 6 grams a day, there would be at least 85 fewer heart attacks and strokes out of every 100,000 people over a decade.
The researchers cautioned, however, that this was only the case if people did not increase their overall intake of calories or eat chocolate at the expense of healthful food. People would have to cut back on other kinds of snacks to offset the calories from the chocolate and avoid gaining weight.
Although more research is needed, the researchers say substances in cocoa known as flavanols may account for the health benefits. Flavonols appear to increase levels of nitric oxide, which lowers blood pressure. Although this study did not examine which type of chocolate was best, dark chocolate has more flavanols, suggesting that might be the best kind. Other studies indicate dark chocolate lowers blood pressure and reduces the risk for blood clots, which can cause heart attacks and strokes.
March 30, 2010; 9:36 AM ET
Categories: Cardiovascular Health , Nutrition and Fitness
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