Chocolate linked to heart health in women

November 9, 2010 in Heart Health, Nutrition Topics in the News, Women's Health

Chocolate linked to heart health in women

Once again chocolate is being linked to heart health, this time in older women.

A new study from Australian researchers reported that older women who eat more chocolate were less likely to develop heart problems over a 10-year-period.

To investigate, researchers  reviewed data from more than 1200 older women, who estimated how often they ate chocolate and how much.  For the study, one serving of chocolate was the equivalent amount of cocoa in 1 cup (250 ml) of hot cocoa. The authors tracked the women for almost a decade, noting who was hospitalized or died from heart disease.

The authors found that women older than 70 who consumed chocolate at least once per week were 35 percent less likely to be hospitalized or die from heart disease over the course of the study, and nearly 60 percent less likely to be hospitalized or die from heart failure.

Researchers noted that women did not have to eat a large portion of chocolate to see heart health benefits, saying their findings support moderate chocolate consumption.

The study findings, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, aren't the first to document chocolate's heart health benefits.  Numerous studies have linked chocolate - dark chocolate - with health benefits including lower blood pressure and cholesterol, reduced blood clot risk, improved blood vessel function and helping cells use glucose more effectively - all of which are directly related to better heart health.

In 2008, Italian researchers found that eating dark chocolate regularly helped lower levels of inflammation, which is strongly associated with heart and blood vessel disease. Another study found that a small 6.3 gram serving of dark chocolate per day - only 30 calories worth -lowered blood pressure in people with prehypertension or high blood pressure.

Dark chocolate's heart healthy effects are thought to be due to the action of flavonoids, natural compounds in cocoa beans which give dark chocolate its bittersweet taste. Dark chocolate has a high concentration of flavonoids, milk chocolate contains fewer because it's diluted with milk, and white chocolate contains none.

Read labels to look for bars that contain at least 70 percent cocoa solids (cocoa mass). 

Want to learn more about the health benefits of (a small portion) of dark chocolate health benefits?  Pick up Leslie Beck's book Heart Healthy Foods for Life.

All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.