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25-08-2010 | Cardiology | Article

Dark chocolate linked to reduced heart failure risk

Abstract

Free abstract

MedWire News: Middle-aged and elderly women who consume moderate amounts of high-cocoa-content-chocolate have a reduced risk for heart failure, study findings suggest.

These findings add to other recent evidence that the high flavonoid content in dark chocolate may have cardiovascular benefits.

However, Murray Mittleman (Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts, USA) and team say that given the many health risks associated with regular consumption of high-calorie foods like chocolate, their findings should not be seen as a "rationale for eating large amounts of chocolate."

Over a 9-year period, the researchers assessed the number of heart failure (HF)-related hospitalizations and deaths among 31,823 Swedish women aged 48-83 years, with no history of diabetes, HF, or myocardial infarction (MI).

At baseline, all women completed a food-frequency questionnaire in which they reported how often they consumed chocolate and other foods during the previous year. For chocolate, the frequencies ranged from never to three servings per day (19 to 30 grams per serving).

By the end of the follow-up period, 379 women had HF-related hospitalization and 40 died from HF.

After multivariate analysis, the team found that the consumption of small to moderate amounts of high-cocoa-content chocolate (30% cocoa solids) was associated with a reduced HF risk compared with no consumption.

A 26% and a 34% reduction in relative risk for HF was found among women who consumed one to three servings per month and one to two servings of chocolate per week, respectively, compared with those who reported no regular chocolate intake (p=0.0005).

Frequent consumption of high-cocoa-content-chocolate had no significant effect on HF risk, however, as illustrated by a nonsignificant 23% risk increase among those who consumed one serving of chocolate or more daily compared with those with no regular chocolate intake.

This finding, say the researchers, is most likely due to the negative impact of the calorie burden of frequently consuming chocolate. They hypothesize that the effects of these extra calories may nullify any benefit gained from chocolate.

Mittleman et al conclude, however, that in the case of HF, "further studies are needed to confirm or refute these findings and to determine the optimal dose and type of chocolate and to clarify the mechanisms involved."

MedWire (www.medwire-news.md) is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a trading division of Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2010

By Lauretta Ihonor

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