Chocolate cuts death rate in heart attack survivors: study

Aug 13, 2009 by Marlowe Hood

Heart attack survivors who eat chocolate two or more times per week cut their risk of dying from heart disease about threefold compared to those who never touch the stuff, scientists have reported.

Smaller quantities confer less protection, but are still better than none, according to the study, which appears in the September issue of the Journal of Internal Medicine.

Earlier research had established a strong link between cocoa-based confections and lowered blood pressure or improvement in blood flow.

It had also shown that cuts the rate of heart-related mortality in healthy older men, along with post-menopausal women.

But the new study, led by Imre Janszky of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, is the first to demonstrate that consuming chocolate can help ward off the grim reaper if one has suffered -- otherwise known as a heart attack.

"It was specific to chocolate -- we found no benefit to sweets in general," said Kenneth Mukamal, a researcher at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and a co-author of the study.

"It seems that antioxidants in cocoa are a likely candidate" for explaining the live-saving properties, he told AFP in an exchange of e-mails.

Antioxidants are compounds that protect against so-called , molecules which accumulate in the body over time that can damage cells and are thought to play a role in heart disease, cancer and the aging process.

In the study, Janszky and colleagues tracked 1,169 non-diabetic men and women, 45-to-70 years old, in Stockholm County during the early 1990s from the time they were hospitalised with their first-ever .

The participants were queried before leaving hospital on their food consumption habits over the previous year, including how much chocolate they ate on a regular basis.

They underwent a health examination three months after discharge, and were monitored for eight years after that. The incidence of fatal heart attacks correlated inversely with the amount of chocolate consumed.

"Our findings support increasing evidence that chocolate is a rich source of beneficial bioactive compounds," the researchers concluded.

The results held true for men and women, and across all the age groups included in the study.

Other factors that might have affected the outcome -- alcohol consumption, obesity, smoking -- were also taken into account.

So should we all be loading up on cocoa-rich sweets?

"To be frank, I'm pretty cautious about chocolate because we're working on weight problems with so many individuals," said Mukamal, who is also a practising physician.

"However, I do encourage those who are looking for healthier desserts to consider chocolate in small quantities," he said.

"For individuals with no weight issues who have been able to eat chocolate in moderation and remain slim, I do not limit it," he added.

The researchers caution that clinical trials are needed to back up the findings of their study.

In the meantime, however, a bit of chocolate may not be amiss, they suggest.

(c) 2009 AFP

Explore further: A real-time tracking system developed to monitor dangerous bacteria inside the body

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Nice but naughty -- our addiction to chocolate

Sep 11, 2007

Chocolate is the most widely and frequently craved food. People readily admit to being ‘addicted to chocolate’ or willingly label themselves as ‘chocoholics’. A popular explanation for this is that chocolate contains ...

Recommended for you

Scientists discover new clues to how weight loss is regulated

29 minutes ago

A hormone seen as a popular target to develop weight-loss drugs works by directly targeting the brain and triggering previously unknown activity in the nervous system, UT Southwestern Medical Center obesity researchers have ...

Team finds key signaling pathway in cause of preeclampsia

2 hours ago

A team of researchers led by a Wayne State University School of Medicine associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology has published findings that provide novel insight into the cause of preeclampsia, the leading cause ...

Rapid test to diagnose severe sepsis

6 hours ago

A new test, developed by University of British Columbia researchers, could help physicians predict within an hour if a patient will develop severe sepsis so they can begin treatment immediately.

User comments : 4

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

mjb_TO
3 / 5 (2) Aug 13, 2009
Interesting. Chocolate is predominantly saturated fat.
Soylent
3 / 5 (2) Aug 13, 2009
Interesting. Chocolate is predominantly saturated fat.


A vial of strychnine is predominately water.
marky
5 / 5 (1) Aug 13, 2009
and did the study compare people with/without an already high antioxidant diet (vegies/superfoods/supplements).

Maybe chocolate is not such an important contributor for those receiving far better than the RDA intake of antioxidants.
Soylent
1 / 5 (1) Aug 14, 2009
Marky. Anti-oxidants have yet to convincingly show themselves to be of any value at all or even not harmful.

We don't know much about why vegetables are beneficial and should refrain from making any recomendations other than eating vegetables.

There is no RDA for antioxidants other than those vitamins that also happen to be antioxidants.