Study: Chocolate protects the heart
We all know that many women love chocolate. But does chocolate, in effect, love them back? Well, a new study provides new evidence that eating chocolate can protect a woman's heart.
Murray Middleman of Harvard Medical School and his colleagues studied 31,823 middle-aged and elderly Swedish women, examining how much chocolate the women ate compared with their risk for heart failure over a nine-year period.
Women who consumed one or two servings each week of what is considered high-quality chocolate because it contains a higher density of cocoa had a 32 percent lower risk of developing heart failure, the researchers reported in the journal Circulation: Heart Failure, which is published by the American Heart Association. Those who had one to three servings per month had a 26 percent lower risk.
But women who treated themselves to at least one serving each day did not appear to benefit, the researchers found. The researchers speculate that the reason for that may be that the additional calories of eating that much chocolate instead of more nutritious foods outweighs the benefits.
Previous research has indicated that compounds in chocolate known as flavanoids lower blood pressure. The new study is the first to show over the long term that chocolate appears to protect against heart failure.
The researchers noted that in Sweden even milk chocolate has a higher cocoa concentration than dark chocolate sold in the United States. Although 90 percent of all chocolate eaten in Sweden during the study period from 1998 to 2006 was milk chocolate, it contained about 30 percent cocoa. U.S. standards require only 15 percent cocoa to qualify as dark chocolate. So American chocolate may have fewer heart benefits and more calories and fat for equivalent servings. In addition, the average serving size for Swedish women in the study ranged from 19 grams to 30 grams. In contrast, the standard American portion size is 20 grams.
So the message is that eating a little dark chocolate in moderate amounts can be healthful, as long as you don't eat so much that you gain weight.
August 16, 2010; 4:00 PM ET
Categories: Cardiovascular Health , Chronic Conditions , Nutrition and Fitness , Obesity , Women's Health
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