Chocolate Slashes Death Rate in Heart Attack Survivors
Heart attack survivors who eat chocolate two or more times a week cut their risk of dying from heart disease about threefold compared with those who never touch the stuff, a new study found.
Smaller quantities confer less protection but are 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 also had shown that chocolate cuts the rate of heart-related mortality in healthy older men, along with post-menopausal women.
But the new study is the first to demonstrate that consuming chocolate can help ward off the grim reaper if one has suffered an 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, which Imre Janszky of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm led.
"It seems that antioxidants in cocoa are a likely candidate" in explaining the life-saving properties, he told AFP in an exchange of e-mails.
Antioxidants are compounds that protect against so-called free radicals, molecules that accumulate in the body over time and can damage cells. The free radicals are thought to play a role in heart disease, cancer and the aging process.
In the study, Janszky and colleagues tracked 1,169 non-diabetic men and women, ages 45 to 70, in Stockholm County 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.
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.
"Our findings support increasing evidence that chocolate is a rich source of beneficial bioactive compounds," the researchers concluded.
The results held true for men and women across all the age groups in the study.
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