Study: A small dose of chocolate could cut heart attack or stroke risk by almost 40 per cent

By Maria Cheng, The Associated Press

March 30, 2010 – LONDON – The Easter Bunny might lower your chances of having a heart problem. According to a new study, small doses of chocolate every day could decrease your risk of having a heart attack or stroke by nearly 40 per cent.

German researchers followed nearly 20,000 people over eight years, sending them several questionnaires about their diet and exercise habits.

They found people who had an average of six grams of chocolate per day – or about one square of a chocolate bar – had a 39 per cent lower risk of either a heart attack or stroke. The study is scheduled to be published Wednesday in the European Heart Journal.

Previous studies have suggested dark chocolate in small amounts could be good for you, but this is the first study to track its effects over such a long period of time. Experts think the flavonols contained in chocolate are responsible. Flavonols, also found in vegetables and red wine, help the muscles in blood vessels widen, which leads to a drop in blood pressure.

“It’s a bit too early to come up with recommendations that people should eat more chocolate, but if people replace sugar or high-fat snacks with a little piece of dark chocolate, that might help,” said Brian Buijsse, a nutritional epidemiologist at the German Institute of Human Nutrition in Nuthetal, Germany, the study’s lead author.

The people tracked by Buijsse and colleagues had no history of heart problems, had similar habits for risk factors like smoking and exercise, and did not vary widely in their Body Mass Index.

Since the study only observed people and did not give them chocolate directly to test what its effects were, experts said more research was needed to determine the candy’s exact impact on the body. The study was paid for by the German government and the European Union.

Doctors also warned that eating large amounts of chocolate could lead to weight gain, a major risk factor for heart problems and strokes.

“This is not a prescription to eat more chocolate,” said Dr. Robert Eckel, a professor of medicine at the University of Colorado and a past president of the American Heart Association. He was not linked to the study. “If we all had (a small amount) of chocolate every day for the rest of our lives, we would all gain a few pounds.”

Eckel said it was amazing to find such a small amount of chocolate could have such a protective effect, but that more studies needed to be done to confirm its conclusions.

Alice Lichtenstein, a nutritionist at Tufts University School of Medicine, said it was difficult to link the reduction in heart disease and stroke risk to the chocolate alone, since there may have been other differences between the study participants.

“The relationship between chocolate and good health outcomes is still uncertain,” she said. “If somebody really enjoys eating chocolate, then they should have a small amount of that and just really enjoy it,” she said.

Ask the Dietitian: Chocolate

Question: Is it true Belgian chocolate is good for your heart health? Tell me more!

Answer: Recent evidence suggests that chocolate – especially dark chocolate – is rich in substances that may actually help fend off heart disease. These substances are known as flavonoids and are not limited to chocolate; flavonoids are also present in onions, grapes, red wine and tea, among other plant-derived foods. It appears that flavonoids have powerful antioxidant effects.

A study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition this past fall compared a traditional American diet to the same diet rich in flavonoids from chocolate (consuming a daily cocoa powder beverage and dark chocolate). What they found was that the group supplemented with the chocolate products had modest reductions in the oxidation of the “bad” cholesterol, LDL compared to the control diet. This means the LDL-cholesterol was less apt to form a plaque on the arterial wall. Additional preliminary research on chocolate shows it can also favourably affect blood clotting and the relaxation of blood vessels.

Will any chocolate do? Unfortunately no. Many chocolate products, such as cocoa powder and chocolate syrup, are typically processed with alkali, removing most of these beneficial flavonoids in the process. And milk chocolate has fewer of these beneficial chemicals than does dark chocolate.

So what are you to do? Until further research is conducted, focus on foods proven to help enhance heart health and prevent disease – fruits, vegetables and whole grains for example. But, allow yourself to enjoy a small piece of dark chocolate or chocolate product once in awhile. Many manufacturers make great bite-sized pieces of dark chocolate that can help fulfill that chocolate craving. Nonfat chocolate puddings or hot chocolate mixes are another great option. Remember, most chocolate products (candy bars, confections, cocoa powder, chocolate syrups) are traditionally high in calories and total fat, so incorporate these foods into your diet with discretion.

One day we may find we can “have our cake and eat it too”. Until then, moderation is still key.

Heart-Health Benefits of Chocolate Unveiled

It is no secret that fruits, vegetables and grains convey health benefits – we’ve been told that for years. But did you know that chocolate could result in health benefits, more specifically heart-health benefits ?
Have you had your flavonoids today?

While not a question normally asked at a social gathering, flavonoids have become quite a hot topic in the media and in scientific journals.

What are flavonoids?

Flavonoids are naturally-occurring compounds found in plant-based foods recognized as exuding certain health benefits.

Flavonoids are found in a wide array of foods and beverages, such as cranberries, apples, peanuts, chocolate, onions, tea and red wine. There are more than 4,000 flavonoid compounds; flavonoids are a subgroup of a large class called polyphenols.

Flavonoids provide important protective benefits to plants, such as in repairing damage and shielding from environmental toxins. When we consume plant-based foods rich in flavonoids, it appears that we also benefit from this “antioxidant” power. Antioxidants are believed to help the body’s cells resist damage caused by free radicals, formed by normal bodily processes such as breathing or environmental contaminants like cigarette smoke. When the body lacks adequate levels of antioxidants, free radical damage ensues, leading to increases in LDL-cholesterol oxidation and plaque formation on arterial walls.

In addition to their antioxidant capabilities, flavonoids also:

  • Are thought to help reduce platelet activation
  • May affect the relaxation capabilities of blood vessels
  • May positively affect the balance of certain hormone-like compounds called eicosanoids, which are thought to play a role in cardiovascular health.

Forms of Chocolate

Before you grab a chocolate candy bar or slice of chocolate cake, let’s look at what forms of chocolate would be ideal over others:

  • When cocoa is processed into your favorite chocolate products, it goes through several steps to reduce its naturally pungent taste. Flavonoids (polyphenols) provide this pungent taste. The more chocolate is processed (such as fermentation, alkalizing, roasting), the more flavonoids are lost. Most commercial chocolates fit this category.
  • Dark chocolate appears to retain the highest level of flavonoids. So your best bet is to choose dark chocolate over milk chocolate.
  • Some chocolate manufacturers are studying ways to retain the highest level of flavonoids while still providing acceptable taste. Stay tuned for more information in this area.

What about all of the fat in chocolate?

You may be surprised to find out that chocolate isn’t as bad as once perceived. The fat in chocolate, from cocoa butter, is comprised of equal amounts of oleic acid (a heart-healthy monounsaturated fat also found in olive oil), stearic and palmitic acids. Stearic and palmitic acids are forms of saturated fat. Saturated fats are linked to increases in LDL-cholesterol and risk for heart disease.

Research indicates that stearic acid appears to have a neutral effect on cholesterol, neither raising nor lowering it. Palmitic acid on the other hand, does affect cholesterol levels but only comprises one-third of the fat calories in chocolate.

This great news does not give us a license to consume as much dark chocolate as we’d like.

First, be cautious as to the type of dark chocolate you choose: chewy caramel-marshmallow-nut-covered dark chocolate is by no means a heart-healthy food option. What wreaks havoc on most chocolate products are the fat and calories that accompany other ingredients.

Second, there is currently no established serving size of chocolate to reap these cardiovascular benefits. However, what we do know is you no longer need to feel guilty if you enjoy a small piece of dark chocolate once in awhile.

More research in this area is needed to determine just how much chocolate we chocolate-lovers can eat in order to acquire cardioprotective benefits. Until that time, enjoy chocolate in moderate portions a few times per week. Don’t forget to eat other flavonoid-rich foods like apples, red wine, tea, onions and cranberries.

Chocolate can do good things for your heart, skin and brain

Preliminary research suggests chocolate may boost your memory, attention span, reaction time, and problem-solving skills.

By Marjorie Ingall

Listen to the way people malign chocolate: Sinful! Decadent! To die for! There’s even that popular restaurant dessert known as “Death by Chocolate.” But is this any way to talk about a loved one — especially during the season of comfort and joy?

Bite your tongue! Evidence is mounting that some kinds of chocolate are actually good for you. Here’s the latest about the healthy side of your chocolate habit and taste-tested advice on what to try. Merry munching.

A happier heart

Scientists at the Harvard University School of Public Health recently examined 136 studies on coco — the foundation for chocolate — and found it does seem to boost heart health, according to an article in the European journal Nutrition and Metabolism.

“Studies have shown heart benefits from increased blood flow, less platelet stickiness and clotting, and improved bad cholesterol,” says Mary B. Engler, Ph.D., a chocolate researcher and director of the Cardiovascular and Genomics Graduate Program at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Nursing. These benefits are the result of cocoa’s antioxidant chemicals known as flavonoids, which seem to prevent both cell damage and inflammation.

Better blood pressure

If yours is high, chocolate may help. Jeffrey Blumberg, Ph.D., director of the Antioxidants Research Laboratory at Tufts University, recently found that hypertensive people who ate 3.5 ounces of dark chocolate per day for two weeks saw their blood pressure drop significantly, according to an article in the journal Hypertension. Their bad cholesterol dropped, too.

People who ate the same amount of white chocolate? Nothing. (It doesn’t have any cocoa — or flavonoids.) Word to the wise: 3.5 ounces is roughly equal to a big bar of baking chocolate, so the participants had to cut about 400 calories out of their daily diets to make room. But you probably don’t have to go to those lengths. Just a bite may do you good, Blumberg says.

Muscle magic

Chocolate milk may help you recover after a hard workout. In a small study at Indiana University, elite cyclists who drank chocolate milk between workouts scored better on fatigue and endurance tests than those who had some sports drinks. Yoo-hoo!

TLC for your skin

German researchers gave 24 women a half-cup of special extra-flavonoid-enriched cocoa every day. After three months, the women’s skin was moister, smoother, and less scaly and red when exposed to ultraviolet light. The researchers think the flavonoids, which absorb UV light, help protect and increase blood flow to the skin, improving its appearance.

Brain gains

It sounds almost too good to be true, but preliminary research at West Virginia’s Wheeling Jesuit University suggests chocolate may boost your memory, attention span, reaction time, and problem-solving skills by increasing blood flow to the brain. Chocolate companies found comparable gains in similar research on healthy young women and on elderly people.

Good loving (maybe)

Finally, Italian researchers wanted to know whether chocolate truly is an aphrodisiac. In a survey of 143 women published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, those who ate chocolate every day seemed to have more sex drive, better lubrication, and an easier time reaching orgasm. Pass the Godiva, right?

Not so fast. The women who ate chocolate were all younger than the ones who didn’t; it was age and not chocolate that made the difference. Still, if a double-chocolate raspberry truffle puts you in the mood, why let science get in the way?

New York–based writer Marjorie Ingall loves milk chocolate but says she’s ready to go dark this year

Copyright 2006 HEALTH Magazine. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Nutritional values for pure imported Belgian chocolates and truffles

Did you know that our pure imported Belgian chocolate is healthy for you?

Have a look at the numbers below and start enjoying a piece or more every day…. guilt-free!

Pure Belgian Chocolate Calories Carbs Lipids Proteins
  Per 100gr Per piece 5gr Per 100gr Per piece 5gr Per 100gr Per piece 5g Per 100gr Per piece 5gr
Milk Chocolate 546 27.3 52 2.6gr 33 1.7gr 7 0.4gr
Dark Chocolate (70% cocoa) 507 25.4 31 1.6gr 39 2.0gr 8 0.4gr
Dark Chocolate (88% cocoa) 540 27.0 23 1.2gr 48 2.4gr 11 0.6gr
 
Belgian Chocolate Truffles Calories Carbs Lipids Proteins
Manons, Pralines, Ganaches Per 100gr Per piece 16gr Per 100gr Per piece 16gr Per 100gr Per piece 16gr Per 100gr Per piece 16gr
On average (+- 5%) 558 95 46 7.4gr 40 6.4gr 4 0.6gr

 

Pure Belgian chocolate provides the body with a plethora of minerals

Often working in conjunction with vitamins, minerals are indispensable to healthy physical functioning.

% of RDA *
per 100gr
In which chocolate? Functions
Calcium
3 – 40%
Mostly found in milk and white chocolate – needed for the formation and maintenance of bones and teeth
– together with vitamin A, aids coagulation of blood in wounds
– plays a role in muscle function
Magnesium
6 – 60%
The greatest concentrations are found in dark chocolate – helps maintain a strong skeletal system
– primarily active in the promotion of memory and brain function and in preventing depression
Copper
0 – 60%
Mostly found in dark chocolate, in a lesser extent, in milk chocolate – has a role in countering cardiovascular disease
Iron
2 – 35%
Mostly found in dark chocolate – active in the transport of oxygen to all body tissues
Phosphorus
25 – 35%
Only found in milk and dark chocolate – involved in the maintenance of a strong skeletal system.
– has a role in the utilization of energy arising from food.
Zinc
7 – 17%
The highest concentrations are found in dark chocolate – important in the take-up of nutritional elements from macro-nutrients
– involved in cell growth and the repair of tissue in the human body
Manganese
0 – 100%
Mostly found in dark chocolate, in a lesser extent, in milk chocolate – helps the functioning of the nervous system
* RDA = Recommended Daily Allowance