Friday, February 05, 2010

Can Chocolate Really Prevent Heart Disease?

If you were a chocolate lover, you would definitely be very happy to know that “chocolate could help you prevent heart disease”. But many of you will probably ask: “ Are you sure?”

This is understandable because many studies have already linked eating chocolate to overweight, obesity, diabetes, and many medical disorders. And most importantly, all of these disorders are known risk factors for heart disease.

On the other hand, there were also studies that reported chocolate is good for the health. For example, earlier research had shown a strong link between cocoa-based confections and lowered blood pressure or improvement in blood flow. Others had found that chocolate reduced heart disease related death rate in healthy older men and post-menopausal women.

In the September 2009’s issue of the Journal of Internal Medicine, scientists from both the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston reported that heart attack survivors who eat chocolate 2 or more times a week cut their risk of dying from heart disease by about 3 times than those who have never tasted chocolate. They also pointed out that smaller quantities of chocolate consumption would have lesser protection but are still better than none.

This new study is believed to be the first to show that consumption of chocolate could help cut the risk of death for a person who has suffered acute myocardial infarction (or what is commonly known as a heart attack). The results held true for men and women, and across all the age groups included in the study, after taking into account of other factors such as alcohol consumption, obesity, and smoking that might have affected the outcome.

In the study, the scientists followed up with 1,169 non-diabetic men and women, who were between 45 and 70 years old, in Stockholm County during the early 1990s from the time they were hospitalized with their first heart attack. Before leaving the hospital, the participants were asked on their eating habits over the previous year, including how much chocolate they ate on a regular basis.

The scientists stressed that the benefit was solely due to antioxidants in cocoa (material that produces chocolate) but not sweets in general. It has been known that antioxidants are compounds that can protect against free radicals. Free radicals, which are molecules accumulating in the human body over time, could damage cells and are believed to be responsible to cause heart disease, cancer and the ageing process.

1 comment:

  1. I think it is very interesting that you point out that the investigators "stressed that the benefit was solely due to antioxidants in cocoa but not sweets in general." I think a number of people have a hard time believing that chocolate may be good for their heart because of the options of chocolate that are out there. For example, would a Hershey's bar have the same benefits of a Kit-Kat? I think that it is important that the scientists stress the best/healthiest sources of cocoa when this information is disseminated.