It’s nice when something that you like turns out to be good for you. And that does seem to be the case for chocolate-lovers everywhere. Over the last few years there has been a number of studies which suggest that chocolate exerts beneficial effects on the physiology of the body that would be expected to be disease-protective, especially with regard to heart disease.
For example, chocolate is rich in so-called polyphenols (also found in foods like apples, red grapes, coffee and tea) that have antioxidant action. It is these, and perhaps the presence of other compounds, that help to explain the fact that chocolate has been found to have considerable antioxidant potential. Chocolate eating has been shown to have the capacity to lower blood pressure and enhance insulin sensitivity too ” both things that would be expected to protect against cardiovascular disease.
So, maybe we shouldn’t be too surprised about the findings of a recently published study that suggests chocolate eating may be beneficial for heart attack survivors . This research, conducted in Sweden, assessed the chocolate eating habits of 1169 individuals in the year prior to having a heart attack. These individuals were assessed after discharge from hospital for a period of 8 years.
More frequent chocolate consumption was associated with a reduced risk of dying from a heart-related condition. Compared to those who never ate chocolate, those eating chocolate up to once a week had a 44 per cent reduced risk of cardiac-related death. Those eating chocolate at least twice a week had a 66 per cent reduction in risk.
Epidemiological studies of this nature cannot be used to conclude that chocolate improves the outlook of heart attack survivors, only that this association exists. However, the fact that chocolate has a number of beneficial effects within the body makes the idea that chocolate eating can benefit health plausible.
I advise those who want to get the maximum value whatever benefits chocolate has to offer to opt for dark chocolate (70 per cent cocoa solids or more). Dark chocolate contains more polyphenols than other varieties, and less sugar.
Janszky I, et al. Chocolate consumption and mortality following a first acute myocardial infarction: the Stockholm Heart Epidemiology Program. Journal of Internal Medicine 2009;266(3):248-257