Chocolate is good for your heart health?


by Wendy Rigby / KENS 5

Posted on April 1, 2010 at 2:10 PM

Updated Thursday, Apr 8 at 12:23 PM

Just in time for Easter there’s some intriguing news about chocolate. A German study shows it may be good for your heart. But a San Antonio dietitian says don’t run out and eat a candy bar every day.

Chocolate is one of the Easter Bunny’s favorite candies. The dark, rich treat comes in all forms with familiar names like Hershey’s and Ghirardelli. This weekend we’ll be eating chocolate bunnies, even chocolate carrots.
A German study published in the European Heart Journal showed a little bit of chocolate may actually help lower your blood pressure and your risk of heart disease.
The researchers followed 20-thousand people for eight years. They found people who had an average of six grams of chocolate per day, a tiny piece, had a 39% lower risk of heart attack and stroke.
U.T. Health Science Center registered dietitian Sue Cunningham, Ph.D., says the actual effect on blood pressure was statistically different but not clinically significant.
“The difference in their blood pressure was just by one millimeter of mercury,” Cunningham said. “So, in other words, if their blood pressure had been 135 systolic, it would have gone down to 134.”
The theory is that a small amount of chocolate contains flavonols that help muscles in blood vessels widen, which leads to a drop in blood pressure. But so far, the evidence is still pretty sketchy. Eating large amounts of chocolate can lead to weight gain which puts you at greater risk for heart problems.
Cunningham says the take home message is that no foods are bad and a combination of foods is healthiest.
“We should not say that chocolate is evil, that certain foods are evil. These are bad foods. These are good foods,” she noted. “I think we need to kind of lighten up about that and realize that a variety of foods are the best way to go.”
Much more research is needed to determine chocolate’s exact impact on the body. Other factors might explain the difference in heart disease in the two groups. But it’s nice to know that a little bit of candy may have a sweet impact.