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Cardiovascular Health may be Improved by Dark Chocolate

Posted by floriza in Cardiology

A study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that dark chocolate consumption may lower the risk of stroke in women. Conducted in Sweden, the study is one of several that have correlated cardiovascular health with the consumption of cocoa.

The cardiology researchers evaluated records of women who participated in a mammography study and who made note at the time of the amount of chocolate they ate. These records were from 1997, and the women were all between the ages of 49 and 83. Out of the 33,000 women studied, just over 1,500 strokes were recorded. Their risk was reduced based on the amount of chocolate they consumed.

The more dark chocolate a woman in the study ate, the less likely she was to experience a stroke. Out of 1,000 women who consumed more than 45 grams of dark chocolate per week, there were 2.5 strokes. Out of 1,000 women who consumed less than 8.9 grams of dark chocolate per week, 7.8 strokes were reported.

How Does Chocolate Help the Heart?

Researchers believe chocolate contains flavonoids, which are antioxidants known to help lower high blood pressure and assist in the overall health of the blood. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for strokes.

Flavonoids help repair the cell damage caused by free radicals that are formed as a result of a poor diet and environmental chemicals. Without enough antioxidants to combat free radicals, a number of today’s most common diseases can develop, including cardiovascular disease and high cholesterol.

Chocolate contains a type of flavonoid called flavanols, which are particularly good at improving blood flow to the brain and heart. One problem, however, is that the processing of cocoa appears to often lower the levels of flavanols in chocolate. Maintaining high levels of flavanols may affect the taste of the chocolate, so manufacturers are looking for ways to keep the substance in their products without compromising taste.

Cardiologists in New Jersey and all over the country are not quick to “prescribe” dark chocolate as a way of avoiding strokes or other heart disease, however. They still recommend a healthy diet, exercise, refraining from smoking, and, in some cases, proper medications.

No “Free Lunch”

Since about 800,000 people in the United States suffer strokes annually, these results are compelling, but many of the other substances in chocolate, such as fat and sugar, can cause other health problems. Dark chocolate, which contains the highest percentage of cacao and less sugar than milk chocolate, must still be eaten in moderation, according to doctors.

Furthermore, a direct cause and effect relationship between heart health and chocolate has not been proven.


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