Chocolate link to reduced heart failure risk

An occasional chocolate treat can help prevent heart failure in older women, research suggests.

One or two servings of good-quality chocolate a week reduced the risk of middle-aged and elderly women developing the condition by almost a third, a study found.

Scientists looked at the association between chocolate and heart failure in almost 32,000 Swedish women aged 48 to 83.

Moderate chocolate consumption significantly reduced heart failure risk, but the protective effect lessened as more or less was eaten.

One or two 19 to 30 gram servings a week led to a 32% risk reduction. This fell to 26% when one to three servings a month were eaten, while one serving a day or more showed no benefit.

A typical chocolate bar weighs around 100 grams, but the amount of healthy cocoa solids it contains varies greatly.

Dark chocolate can contain as much as 75% cocoa while standard milk chocolate may have 20% or less.

Antioxidant plant compounds called flavonoids in cocoa are believed to protect against heart disease and high blood pressure.

The study authors pointed out that chocolate eaten in Sweden tends to have a high cocoa content.

Although 90% of chocolate consumed in the country is milk chocolate, it consists of around 30% cocoa solids.

The lack of benefit from eating chocolate every day was probably due to the extra number of calories consumed, said the researchers.

This in turn could lead to increased weight and higher blood pressure, which is a risk factor for heart failure.

"You can't ignore that chocolate is a relatively calorie-dense food and large amounts of habitual consumption is going to raise your risks for weight gain," said study leader Dr Murray Mittleman, director of the Cardiovascular Epidemiology Research Unit at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre in Boston, US.

"But if you're going to have a treat, dark chocolate is probably a good choice, as long as it's in moderation."

The findings are reported in the American Heart Association journal Circulation: Heart Failure.

Heart failure occurs when damage to the heart means it can no longer pump blood around the body efficiently. Sufferers may feel tired, breathless and find themselves unable to climb hills or stairs.

Around 68,000 new cases of heart failure are diagnosed in the UK each year.

Commenting on the research, US expert Professor Linda Van Horn, from Northwestern University in Chicago, said: "Those tempted to use these data as their rationale for eating large amounts of chocolate or engaging in more frequent chocolate consumption are not interpreting this study appropriately.

"This is not an 'eat all you want' take-home message, rather it's that eating a little dark chocolate can be healthful, as long as other adverse behaviours do not occur, such as weight gain or extensive intake of non-nutrient dense 'empty' calories."

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Ashdown Group: Client Accountant Team Manager - Reading

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group has been engaged by a highly resp...

    Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: You will also work alongside their seasoned sa...

    Recruitment Genius: Assistant Property Manager

    £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you looking for your first step into...

    Recruitment Genius: Mechanical Design Engineer

    £25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This innovative company working...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

    The masterminds behind the election

    How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
    Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

    Machine Gun America

    The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
    The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

    The ethics of pet food

    Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
    How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
    11 best bedside tables

    11 best bedside tables

    It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
    Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

    Italy vs England player ratings

    Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
    Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

    An underdog's tale of making the most of it

    Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
    Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

    Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

    Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat