Dark chocolate: Half a bar per week to keep at bay the risk of heart attack

Sep 23, 2008

Maybe gourmands are not jumping for joy. Probably they would have preferred bigger amounts to sup-port their passion. Though the news is still good for them: 6.7 grams of chocolate per day represent the ideal amount for a protective effect against inflammation and subsequent cardiovascular disease.

A new effect, demonstrated for the first time in a population study by the Research Laboratories of the Catholic University in Campobasso, in collaboration with the National Cancer Institute of Milan.

The findings, published in the last issue of the Journal of Nutrition, official journal of the American So-ciety of Nutrition, come from one of the largest epidemiological studies ever conducted in Europe, the Moli-sani Project, which has enrolled 20,000 inhabitants of the Molise region so far. By studying the participants recruited, researchers focused on the complex mechanism of inflammation. It is known how a chronic inflammatory state represents a risk factor for the development of cardiovascular disease, from myocardial infarction to stroke, just to mention the major diseases. Keeping the inflammation process un-der control has become a major issue for prevention programs and C reactive protein turned out to be one of the most promising markers, detectable by a simple blood test.

The Italian team related the levels of this protein in the blood of examined people with their usual choco-late intake. Out of 11,000, researchers identified 4,849 subjects in good health and free of risk factors (normal cholesterol, blood pressure and other parameters). Among them, 1,317 did not use to eat any chocolate, while 824 used to have chocolate regularly, but just the dark one.

"We started from the hypothesis- says Romina di Giuseppe, 33, lead author of the study- that high amounts of antioxidants contained in the cocoa seeds, in particular flavonoids and other kinds of poly-phenols, might have beneficial effects on the inflammatory state. Our results have been absolutely en-couraging: people having moderate amounts of dark chocolate regularly have significantly lower levels of C-reactive protein in their blood. In other words, their inflammatory state is considerably reduced." The 17% average reduction observed may appear quite small, but it is enough to decrease the risk of cardio-vascular disease for one third in women and one fourth in men. It is undoubtedly a remarkable outcome".

Chocolate amounts are critical. "We are talking of a moderate consumption. The best effect is obtained by consuming an average amount of 6.7 grams of chocolate per day, corresponding to a small square of chocolate twice or three times a week. Beyond these amounts the beneficial effect tends to disappear".

From a practical point of view, as the common chocolate bar is 100 grams, the study states that less than half a bar of dark chocolate consumed during the week may become a healthy habit. What about the milk chocolate? "Previous studies- the young investigator continues- have demonstrated that milk interferes with the absorption of polyphenols. That is why our study considered just the dark chocolate".

Researchers wanted to sweep all the doubts away. They took into account that chocolate lovers might consume other healthy food too, as wine, fruits and vegetables. Or they might exercise more than others people do. So the observed positive effect might be ascribed to other factors but not to cocoa itself. "In order to avoid this- researcher says- we "adjusted" for all possible "confounding" parameters. But the beneficial effect of chocolate still remained and we do believe it is real".

"This study- says Licia Iacoviello, Head of the Laboratory of Genetic and Environmental Epidemiology at the Catholic University of Campobasso and responsible for the Moli-sani Project- is the first scientific outcome published from the Moli-sani Project. We consider this outcome as the beginning of a large se-ries of data which will give us an innovative view on how making prevention in everyday life, both against cardiovascular disease and tumors".

"Maybe- Giovanni de Gaetano, director of the Research Laboratories of the Catholic University of Cam-pobasso, adds - time has come to reconsider the Mediterranean diet pyramid and take the dark chocolate off the basket of sweets considered to be bad for our health".

Source: Catholic University

Explore further: Yoga big on West Coast, chiropractors popular in Midwest

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Chocolate makes snails smarter

Sep 27, 2012

Chocolate isn't usually on the diet for snails, but when Lee Fruson and Ken Lukowiak from the University of Calgary, became curious about the effects of diet on memory, they decided to try a flavonoid from ...

Sticking power of plant polyphenols used in new coatings

Aug 22, 2013

A simple kitchen sink experiment helped Northwestern University researchers discover that green tea leaves not only can be used to steep a good cup of tea, but they make an excellent antibacterial coating, too.

Something odd is happening with Namibia's weather

Sep 14, 2011

Something's up with the weather in Namibia, say geoscientists Kyle Nichols of Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., and Paul Bierman of the University of Vermont in Burlington, Vt.

How consumers discriminate

Aug 10, 2011

A forthcoming paper in the American Marketing Association's Journal of Marketing Research by Professor Sheena Iyengar, S.T. Lee Professor of Business, Management; Marco Bertini, Assistant Professor of Marketing at London ...

Recommended for you

US judge overturns state's abortion law (Update)

13 hours ago

A federal judge on Wednesday overturned a North Dakota law banning abortions when a fetal heartbeat can be detected, as early as six weeks into pregnancy and before many women know they're pregnant.

User comments : 0

More news stories

New clinical trial launched for advance lung cancer

Cancer Research UK is partnering with pharmaceutical companies AstraZeneca and Pfizer to create a pioneering clinical trial for patients with advanced lung cancer – marking a new era of research into personalised medicines ...

More vets turn to prosthetics to help legless pets

A 9-month-old boxer pup named Duncan barreled down a beach in Oregon, running full tilt on soft sand into YouTube history and showing more than 4 million viewers that he can revel in a good romp despite lacking ...