|Dark chocolate for a healthy heart|
|Written by Melissa Castor, Daily Vidette Staff Writer|
|Thursday, 20 August 2009 20:01|
A study published August 2009 found heart attack survivors who consumed more chocolate were less likely to have heart problems than those who did not.
The study was similar to the French paradox, a phenomenon that suggests that a glass of wine has healthy effects on the heart. Chocolate also contains many of the same chemicals as wine, which helps reduce the incidence of a heart attack.
"The key is not to eat too much," Dr. Robert Cullen, a family and consumer science assistant professor, said. Chocolate contains antioxidants. These compounds help protect against the accumulation of free radicals which are damaging to cells over time. Free radicals play a role in heart disease, cancer and the aging process.
Among many other chemicals, chocolate also contains flavanols. According to the Oregon State University Web site, flavanols are compounds that promote health and prevent diseases in humans.
Cullen said, "The darker the chocolate the more cocoa. That’s what contains important chemicals like flavanol."
There are ever-increasing numbers of diabetes and obesity cases in the United States, but not everyone is sold on the idea of chocolate becoming incorporated into Americans’ diet.
Gail Petro, ISU instructional assistant professor and nurse practitioner at Mennonite College of Nursing, said, "I cannot imagine chocolate would be suggested to patients given the underlying epidemic of diabetes in the country coupled with cardiovascular disease. As a nurse practitioner this would not be teaching I would reinforce with my patients."
"The important part is to eat a wide variety of healthy foods. As humans we need food, but cells need chemicals…from these foods," Cullen said.
In fact, Cullen also said, "You don’t have to eat chocolate. You can get these chemicals from other foods."
However, the problem with Americans’ diets is not with the chocolate so much as the other processed foods we consume.
"Americans are eating too many highly processed foods…and not enough of the foods with chemicals our cells need," Cullen said.
The eight-year study on chocolate consumption that began in the 1990s observed 1,169 non-diabetic men and women age 45 to 75.
The participants were heart attack survivors in the Stockholm County, Sweden area.
Researchers then continued to monitor the participants throughout the rest of the study. The study was recently published in "The Journal of Internal Medicine."