Go ahead, chomp into that chocolate bar. A new study illuminates the value of chocolate: eating it can actually protect a woman’s heart. From Rob Stein’s article Chocolate Protects the Heart, “Women who consumed one or two servings each week of what is considered high-quality dark chocolate had a 32% lower risk of developing heart failure.” Murray Middleman of Harvard Medical School conducted the study, which focused on 31,823 middle-aged and elderly women over a nine-year period and examined how much chocolate they consumed compared with their risk for heart failure.
“Higher-quality” chocolate, which contains a higher density of cocoa, seemed to provide the most benefits. Researchers also reported that those who had one to three servings per month had a 26% lower risk. But there is the risk of getting too much of a good thing; scientists discovered that women who treated themselves to at least one serving each day did not appear to benefit. They suggest it may be because the additional calories of eating excessive amounts of chocolates in place of more nutritious foods could ultimately outweigh the benefits.
Previous research has shown that flavanoid compounds in chocolate can reduce blood pressure, but Middleman’s study is the first to demonstrate that over the long term, chocolate appears to protect against heart failure. However, he warned that American chocolate may have fewer heart benefits and more calories and fat per serving because it has a lower cocoa density than chocolate sold in other countries. Home Care Assistance of Columbus recommends eating small pieces of dark chocolate (at least 60% cocoa) in moderate amounts to reap the benefits but prevent weight gain.
Love chocolate. Love your heart!