A brand new study has found that women who regularly eat a small amount of chocolate have a lower risk of heart failure. It appears in “Circulation: Heart Failure,” a journal of the American Heart Association.
The nine-year study, conducted among nearly 32,000 middle-aged and elderly Swedish women, looked at the relationship between the amount of high-quality chocolate the women ate and risk for heart failure. The quality of chocolate consumed by the women had a higher density cocoa content, similar to dark chocolate found in the U.S. Cocoa is widely known as the agent that makes chocolate heart-healthy.
The study’s findings:
— Women who ate an average of one to two servings of chocolate per week had a 32% lower risk of developing heart failure.
— Those who had one to three servings per month had a 26% lower risk.
— Those who consumed at least one serving daily or more didn’t appear to benefit from a protective effect against heart failure.
That’s an important point that needs to be emphasized. The lack of a protective effect among daily chocolate consumption is probably due to all the extra calories gained from the chocolate, rather than more nutritious foods. Only in great moderation can dark chocolate give you heart protection.
High concentration of compounds called “flavonoids” in chocolate may lower blood pressure, among other benefits. But this is the first study to show long-term outcomes related specifically to heart failure. Its conclusions came from natural information from 1998 to 2006.
Essentially, the higher the cocoa content, the greater the heart benefits. In Sweden, even milk chocolate has a high cocoa concentration. Although 90% of all chocolate eaten across Sweden during the study period was milk chocolate, it contained about 30% cocoa solids. In the U.S., dark chocolate needs only to have 15% cocoa solids to qualify. The best idea is simply to search for the bars of chocolate very high in cocoa — and they will advertise this very clearly.
The lesson here is that a little dark chocolate can be healthful, as long as other problems such as weight gain don’t occur.
Heart failure affects one in 100 Americans over age 65. It’s a condition where the heart can’t pump enough blood to the rest of the body.