Chocolate may reduce heart failure risk but beware

By June Shannon Nutrition News   |   29th Aug 2018

New study suggests chocolate in moderation can reduce heart failure risk

A new study has found that chocolate, eaten in moderation, may reduce the risk of heart failure. However, before you break out the giant sharing block, be warned, it also found that eating a lot of chocolate, was associated with an increased risk of heart failure.

It is also important to note that chocolate is high in calories and eating too much can result in being overweight or obese, a risk factor for heart disease and stroke.

The study, which was presented at the European Society of Cardiology annual congress in Munich in Germany, found that people who ate one to three servings of chocolate a month had a 23 per cent lower risk of developing heart failure compared to those who ate no chocolate at all.

It also revealed that people who ate one or more servings of chocolate a day had a 17 per cent higher risk of heart failure.

“the potential health benefit of some compounds in chocolate have to be weighed against the fact that, when we eat chocolate it also high in sugar, saturated fat and calories,"

Sarah Noone, Dietitian , Irish Heart Foundation

According to the researchers, “dark chocolate and cocoa intakes are associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and cardiovascular mortality” however, to date no research has been done on the relationship between chocolate intake and heart failure.

To answer this question the researchers reviewed three studies of more than 575,000 people and 24, 649 heart failure events.

The findings revealed that moderate chocolate consumption (1 -3 servings a month) was associated with a 23 per cent lower risk of heart failure than no regular chocolate intake. In contrast high chocolate intake (one or more servings a day) was associated with a 17 per cent higher risk of heart failure.

While these findings may seem like good news for chocolate lovers, expert dietitian with the Irish Heart Foundation, Sarah Noone, said that although there have been a number of studies looking at the effects of chocolate on heart disease risk, and it was really tempting to believe the hype, “the results are not conclusive enough for us to recommend eating it for health.”

“If you like chocolate have some every now and then as part of a balanced diet just because you like it.  Eaten too frequently, it is an unhealthy choice,”

Sarah Noone, Dietitian , Irish Heart Foundation

Sarah explained that cocoa beans, the main ingredient in chocolate, contain naturally occurring polyphenols. There has some evidence that polyphenols found in cocoa extracts have heart health benefits.

However, she added “the potential health benefit of some compounds in chocolate have to be weighed against the fact that, when we eat chocolate it also high in sugar, saturated fat and calories and too much can result in excess weight gain, a risk factor for heart disease and stroke.”

Sarah explained that dark chocolate contained more cocoa solids and cocoa butter than milk chocolate, but the amount of polyphenols depended on how the chocolate is processed, so it’s not necessarily better.

“The good news is that fruit and vegetables, such as dark green vegetables, berries and beetroot are also a source of polyphenols and provide us with a range of other vitamins, minerals and fibre without the sugar, fat and calories chocolate brings.

Sarah suggested that rather than making chocolate a ‘healthy option’ it was important to remember that eating healthily was not about excluding or including single foods but about eating a wide range of foods in the right proportions and above all enjoying your food.

“So, if you like chocolate have some every now and then as part of a balanced diet just because you like it.  Eaten too frequently, it is an unhealthy choice,” Sarah advised.

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chocolate dietitian healthy eating heart failure nutrition Obesity overweight

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