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No joy for chocaholics in heart study

Tuesday August 17th, 2010

Middle-aged women may protect their hearts by eating small amounts of dark chocolate, researchers reported last night.

But researchers warned that daily consumption of chocolate may cancel out its benefits.

The findings come from a study of more than 31,000 women in Sweden, reported in the journal Circulation: Heart Failure.

Researchers found those who ate "high quality" chocolate once or twice a week enjoyed a 32 per cent cut in the risk of developing heart failure.

Swedish chocolate contains a minimum of 30 per cent cocoa - about twice the level found in the cheap dark chocolate sold in English-speaking countries.

British experts said the findings do not support taking up chocolate as a health food.

Victoria Taylor, of the British Heart Foundation, said: "Eating for your heart doesn't have to mean giving up the foods you enjoy, but rather eating sensible portions as part of a balanced diet.

"But before you rip open those sweet treats, remember that whilst antioxidants in chocolate may be helpful to your heart, they can also be found in fruit and veg - foods which don't come with the saturated fat and high calories that chocolate does."

Researcher Dr Murray Mittleman, of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts, USA, said: "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.

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

Dr Linda Van Horn, of the American Heart Association, added: "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 excessive intake of non-nutrient dense empty calories."

* A second study last night, involving Italians from Sardinia, reports that aggressive and highly competitive people face an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

Researchers found a strong link between an antagonistic temperament and a 40 per cent increased risk of having excessively thickened artery walls in the neck.

The findings were reported in the journal Hypertension.

* A third study suggests women can protect themselves against heart disease by choosing "healthy" foods rich in protein.

Fish, nuts and poultry all reduced risk compared with red meat, according to a report in the journal Circulation.

The study of 84,000 women over 26 years casts new light on controversies about low-carb diets, which depend on high protein eating.

Researcher Dr Adam Bernstein, of the Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, said: "There are good protein-rich sources that do not involve red meat.

"You don't need to have hot dogs, hamburgers, bologna or pastrami, which are all fresh or processed meats."

'Chocolate Intake and Incidence of Heart Failure A Population-Based Prospective Study of Middle-Aged and Elderly Women' Elizabeth Mostofsky et al. Circulation: Heart Failure, doi;10.1161

Tags: Diet & Food | Europe | Heart Health | UK News | Women’s Health & Gynaecology

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