Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Heart attack survivors who eat chocolate two or more times per week cut their risk of dying from heart disease about three fold compared to those who never touch the stuff, scientists have reported.
Smaller quantities confer less protection, but are still better than none, according to the 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 or improvement in blood flow.
It had also shown that chocolate cuts the rate of heart-related mortality in healthy older men, along with post-menopausal women.
But the new study, led by Imre Janszky of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, is the first to demonstrate that consuming chocolate can help ward off the grim reaper if one has suffered acute myocardial infarction -- otherwise known as a heart attack.
"It was specific to chocolate -- we found no benefit to sweets in general," said Kenneth Mukamal, a researcher at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and a co-author of the study.
"It seems that antioxidants in cocoa are a likely candidate" for explaining the life-saving properties.
Antioxidants are compounds that protect against so-called free radicals, 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 ageing process.