Dark chocolate good for your heart

Higher cocoa content in the
chocolate is associated with greater heart benefits

Older women who eat dark chocolate
once or twice a week could be lowering their risk of heart failure, says a US
study.

It found those eating chocolate
once or twice a week cut the risk of developing heart failure by a third, but
those eating it every day did not benefit.

The Boston study, in a journal of
the American Heart Association, looked at nearly 32,000 Swedish women aged
between 48 and 83 over nine years.

Dieticians say eating chocolate too
often can be damaging and unhealthy.

The study notes that one or two 19
to 30 gram servings of dark chocolate a week led to a 32% reduction in heart
failure risk.

This fell to 26 per cent when one
to three servings a month were eaten.

But those who ate chocolate every
day did not appear to reduce their risk of heart failure at all.

The researchers conclude the
protective effect of eating chocolate reduces as more or less is eaten than the
optimum one to two servings a week.

‘Flavanoids’

Too much chocolate is unhealthy
because it contains high levels of sugar and fat which can make people put on
weight, the researchers say.

But chocolate also contains high
concentration of compounds called flavonoids which can lower blood pressure and
protect against heart disease, previous studies have found.

The researchers behind this study
say this is the first time long-term effects related specifically to heart
failure have been shown.

Dr. Murray Mittleman is study
leader and director of the Cardiovascular Epidemiology Research Unit at the
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre in Boston.

He said: “You can’t ignore that
chocolate is a relatively calorie-dense food and large amounts of habitual
consumption is going to raise your risks for weight gain.

“But if you’re going to have a
treat, dark chocolate is probably a good choice, as long as it’s in moderation,”
Dr Mittleman said.

Cocoa content

Differences in chocolate quality
will affect the study’s implications, the authors say. Higher cocoa content is
associated with greater heart benefits.

Although the chocolate consumed by
the Swedish women in the study was milk chocolate, it contained a high
concentration of cocoa solids – about 30 per cent.

This is equivalent to dark
chocolate by UK standards.

Dark chocolate can contain as much
as 75% cocoa while standard milk chocolate may have 25% or less cocoa.

Victoria Taylor, senior dietician
at the British Heart Foundation, said the study showed the importance of finding
the right balance in our diets.

“Before you rip open those sweet
treats, remember that whilst antioxidants in chocolate may be helpful to your
heart, they can also be found in fruit and veg – foods which don’t come with
the saturated fat and high calories that chocolate does,” she said.

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