Moderate High-quality Chocolate Consumption May Protect Women From Heart Failure

Aug 17th, 2010 | By healthnews | Category: Health

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Main Category: Cardiovascular / Cardiology
Also Included In: Hypertension;  Nutrition / Diet;  Women’s Health / Gynecology
Article Date: 16 Aug 2010 – 17:00 PDT

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Elderly and middle-aged women who eat a small amount of chocolate every week have a reduced risk of developing heart failure, Swedish researchers reported in Circulation: Heart Failure, an American Heart Association journal.

The study, which lasted nine years, involved 31,823 middle-aged and elderly Swedish women – it examined the relationship between high-quality chocolate consumption and heart failure risk. The chocolate that the women consumed had a much higher cocoa content than typical American dark chocolate.

The scientists report that:

  • The women who consumed one or two servings of high cocoa content black chocolate (high quality chocolate) per week had a 32% reduced risk of developing heart failure compared to other women of their age.
  • The women who consumed one to three servings per month had a 26% reduced risk.
  • The women who consumed one serving or more per day had no reduced risk.

The researchers believe that those who ate the high-quality chocolate daily had no protective benefit because of the additional calories gained – the chocolate may have been replacing more nutritious foods.

Murrray Mittleman, M.D., Dr.P.H., director of the Cardiovascular Epidemiology Research Unit at Harvard Medical School’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, study leader, 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.

Chocolate is believed to have some cardiovascular benefits, such as flavonoids, which are known to lower blood pressure, the authors wrote. However, this study is the first to show long-term outcomes related specifically to heart failure, which can result from ongoing untreated high blood pressure.

In this study, the scientists assessed self-reported food-frequency questionnaire responses from 48 to 82 year-old women who took part in the Swedish Mammography Cohort. They combined the results with data from the national Swedish hospitalization and death registries between 1998 to the end of 2006, using multiple forms of statistical modeling to reach their conclusions on chocolate consumption and heart failure.

Cocoa concentration in European chocolates is much higher than in the USA. Even milk chocolate in Sweden has a higher cocoa concentration than dark chocolate sold in the United States.

Milk chocolate, which represents about 90% of Swedish chocolate sales, contains approximately 30% cocoa solids. Only 15% is required by US authorities to qualify as dark chocolate. Therefore, dark chocolate in the USA will probably not offer the same benefits, compared to Swedish chocolates.

Linda Van Horn, Ph.D., R.D., immediate past chair of the American Heart Association Nutrition Committee and professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, said:

Those tempted to use these data as their rationale for eating large amounts of chocolate or engaging in more frequent chocolate consumption are not interpreting this study appropriately. 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.

Heart failure is a serious condition in which the heart is not pumping blood around the body efficiently. The patient’s left side, right side, or even both sides of the body can be affected. Symptoms will depend on which side is affected and how severe the heart failure is – symptoms can be severe. Heart failure occurs in about 1% of Americans aged over 65 years.

Mittleman said:

Anything that helps to decrease heart failure is an important issue worth examining.

Source: American Heart Association

“Chocolate Intake and Incidence of Heart Failure: A Population-Based, Prospective Study of Middle-Aged and Elderly Women”
Elizabeth Mostofsky; Emily B. Levitan; Alicja Wolk and Murray A. Mittleman
Circulation: Heart Failure. 2010
August 16, 2010, doi: 10.1161/CIRCHEARTFAILURE.110.944025

Written by Christian Nordqvist

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