Heart attack survivors who eat chocolate two or more times per week cut their risk of dying from heart disease about three times more compared to those who never touch chocolate, scientists have reported. Smaller quantities confer less protection, but are still better than none, according to a study, which appears in the September issue of the Journal of Internal Medicine.
Earlier research had established a strong link between cocoa-based confections and lowered blood pressure. It had also shown that chocolate cuts the rate of heart-related mortality in older men and women.
The new study is the first to demonstrate that consuming chocolate can help ward off death after a person has suffered a heart attack. It appears the antioxidants in cocoa are a likely reason. Antioxidants are compounds that protect against free radicals or molecules which accumulate in the body over time that can damage cells and are thought to play a role in heart disease, cancer and the aging process.
The study tracked 1,169 non-diabetic men and women, 45-to-70 years old, during the early 1990s from the time they were hospitalized with their first heart attack. The participants were queried before leaving hospital on their food consumption habits during the previous year, including how much chocolate they ate on a regular basis. The results held true for men and women, and across all the age groups included in the study.
They underwent a health examination three months after discharge, and were monitored for eight years after that. The incidence of fatal heart attacks correlated inversely with the amount of chocolate consumed (the more chocolate, the less deaths from heart attacks). The study did not differentiate between milk chocolate and dark chocolate. Thought you chocolate lovers might enjoy this one.