Good news: chocolate is really good for the heart

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For both young and old, chocolate is a very popular product. According to a study published by the European Society of Cardiology, it would be beneficial for heart health and more specifically for the coronary arteries. On the condition, however, of limiting the quantities: once a week would be sufficient.

If chocolate is above all synonymous with pleasure and conviviality, it is also attributed many virtues because this food, which is best enjoyed at Easter or at the end of the year, is among the best to help fight free radicals. A study by researchers at Baylor College of Medicine (Texas) and published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology (a journal of the European Society of Cardiology) gives another good reason to take advantage: it suggests that consuming chocolate at least once a week is linked to a lower risk of heart disease. Specifically, chocolate is said to help keep the heart's blood vessels healthy.

"In the past, clinical studies have shown that chocolate benefits both blood pressure and the lining of blood vessels. I wanted to see whether or not this affects the blood vessels supplying the heart (the coronary arteries). And if it is well, beneficial or harmful, "explains Dr. Chayakrit Krittanawong, who conducted the study.

The researchers synthesized studies conducted over the past five decades on the association between chocolate consumption and coronary heart disease. It is one of the most common cardiovascular diseases characterized by narrowing or blockage of the coronary arteries.

It is better to focus on quality than quantity.

Their analysis included six studies with a total of 336,289 participants reporting their chocolate consumption. During a follow-up of almost nine years, 14,043 participants developed coronary artery disease and 4,667 had a heart attack (when coronary artery disease progresses and blood flow to the heart is suddenly blocked). Scientists found that consuming chocolate more than once a week was associated with an 8% lower risk of coronary heart disease compared to less consumption. The reason is already known: chocolate is very rich in antioxidant molecules.

"Chocolate contains heart-healthy nutrients like flavonoids, methylxanthines, polyphenols, and stearic acid that can reduce inflammation and increase good cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein also known as HDL cholesterol)," adds Dr. Dr Krittanawong. In fact, this good cholesterol (unlike LDL cholesterol called "bad cholesterol") has a role in preventing the formation of atherosclerotic plaques on the wall of the arteries: it carries excess cholesterol accumulated in the arteries to the liver for elimination there. However, the researchers did not examine in detail whether one type of chocolate is more beneficial than another.

So while "chocolate holds promise for preventing coronary heart disease, more research is needed to determine the amount and type of chocolate recommended," they add. Since the optimal amount of chocolate is not established, they warn against excessive consumption of this high-calorie food that it should not be abused.

"Moderate amounts appear to protect the coronary arteries, but large amounts are unlikely to do so. Calories, sugar, milk and fats should be considered in commercial products, especially in diabetics and obese people." they conclude.

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