HEART AND CHOCOLATE

Monday, August 30, 2010

   A piece of dark chocolate a day -- a very small piece -- keeps the doctor away.


An Italian study shows that dark chocolate can significantly reduce the inflammation that leads to cardiovascular disease. The ideal amount is 6.7 grams per day (0.23 ounces). A typical Hershey chocolate bar weighs about 43 grams. That means eating one dark chocolate bar over the course of 6 1/2 days to get 6.7 grams per day.

Milk chocolate doesn't appear to offer the same benefits.

The study was conducted by Research Laboratories of the Catholic University in Campobasso and the National Cancer Institute of Milan and has been published in the Journal of Nutrition. The data come from an epidemiological study called the Moli-sani Project, which selected men and women at least 35 years old randomly from city hall registries in southern Italy.

For the chocolate study, researchers identified 4,849 people in good health without risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure. These participants were asked about their dark chocolate consumption.

Chronic inflammation can lead to heart disease, so keeping inflammation under control is a major part of preventive treatment. Research has shown that patients who have a low amount of C-reactive protein in their blood have lower levels of inflammation. People who eat dark chocolate regularly, in small servings, have significantly lower levels of C reactive protein, according to the study. This holds true even after accounting for any other potential confounding factors (such as differences in other dietary practices).

So ladies, you can now occasionally gorge on chocolate without a sense of guilt, for a study says that eating small amounts of the sweet snack can help protect women from heart failure.


However consuming chocolate every day can eliminate its positive benefits, says the study.

Lead researcher Dr Murray Mittleman of Harvard Medical School 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."

In fact in the nine-year study, conducted among 31,823 Swedish women, researchers looked at the relationship between the amount of high-quality dark chocolate eaten and the risk of heart failure.

The researchers found that women who ate an average of one to two servings of the high-quality chocolate per week had a 32 per cent lower risk of developing heart failure, British newspaper 'The Daily Telegraph' reported.

Those who had one to three servings per month had a 26 per cent lower risk, but those who ate at least one serving daily or more didn't seem to benefit from a protective effect against heart failure.

Dr Mittleman said the lack of a protective effect among women eating chocolate every day was probably due to the additional calories gained from eating chocolate instead of more nutritious foods.


High concentration of compounds called 'flavonoids' in chocolate may lower blood pressure, among other benefits, according to mostly short-term studies.

However, this is the first study to show long-term outcomes related specifically to heart failure, which can result from ongoing untreated high blood pressure, say the researchers.

 

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