Chocolate Protects Heart

August 14/London/DAILY MAIL -- Heart attack survivors who snack on chocolate at least twice a week could greatly reduce their risk of dying from cronary disease, according to research.

A Swedish study shows victims who eat chocolate regularly are nearly 70% less likely to die from cardiac problems than those who rarely eat it.

Even a weekly chocolate treat can help, almost halving the risk of death from heart problems.

The findings, published in the Journal of Internal Medicine, are the latest in a long line of studies highlighting the health benefits of chocolate, especially dark chocolate.

Previous investigations have found dark chocolate, which is rich in disease-busting antioxidants called flavonoids, can lower the risk of blood clots, protect against bowel cancer and even help prevent premature births.

Antioxidants protect the body from aging caused by free radicals, which can cause damage that leads to heart disease.

Every year, around 270,000 people in Britain suffer a heart attack, and coronary disease remains Britain's biggest killer.

About a third die before reaching hospital, often because they have delayed seeking help.

If someone survives a heart attack, they can still be left with severe damage that drastically increases their risk of dying from cardiac problems in the future. However, research by experts at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, indicates snacking on chocolate could be the perfect remedy.

They tracked 1,169 patients aged 45-70 who had been admitted to hospital with a heart attack between 1992-1994.

Each was quizzed on dietary habits, including how much chocolate they ate. All the patients were then followed up for nearly a decade.

The results showed those eating a few chunks of chocolate twice a week or more were 66% less likely to die from cardiac disease than non-eaters.

Chocolate once a week reduced the risk by almost half, and even an occasional treat, once a month or less, had a small benefit, cutting the risk by 27%.

However, other sweets were no help at all.

In a report on their findings, the researchers said, "The health effects of chocolate have been of great interest in recent years, but we know of no other studies assessing the possible effects of chocolate on post-heart attack prognosis.We found it had a strong inverse association with subsequent cardiac mortality."

However, it is unlikely that indulging in high-fat milk chocolate - the most popular type in the U.K. - will have the same advantages.

Ellen Mason, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said, "We need to interpret this study with caution, as it's based on decade-old events, and our diagnosis and treatment of heart attacks have moved on considerably since that time.

"Being high in sugar and saturated fat, chocolate is unlikely to prove a miracle solution for heart disease.

"Dark chocolate does contain antioxidants, but we can all get the beneficial effects of antioxidants by eating plenty of fruit and vegetables and should keep chocolate as an occasional treat in a healthy, balanced diet."

The findings come soon after claims from manufacturers in Switzerland who say they are on the verge of marketing a "healthy" chocolate that has all the taste and 90% fewer calories than the sinful original.  

From the August 17, 2009, Prepared Foods E-dition