Dark Chocolate Lowers Heart Failure Risk

Women who consume small amounts of dark chocolate have a lower risk of heart failure than those who do not, according to a recent study.

Dark chocolate, consumed in moderation, may reduce the risk of heart failure in women, according to a study published in Circulation: Heart Failure, a journal of the American Heart Association. The 9-year study, involving 31,823 Swedish women, aged 48 to 83 years, compared the relationship between the amounts of dark chocolate women consumed to their risk of heart failure.

The results showed that women who consumed about 1 to 2 servings of dark chocolate per week had a 32% lower risk of developing heart failure, and women who ate 1 to 3 servings per month had a 26% lower chance. A serving size is considered to be half to two thirds of a standard candy bar sold in the United States. Those who ate more than 1 serving per day did not benefit—most likely a result of chocolate’s high caloric content.

“You can’t ignore that chocolate is a relatively calorie-dense food and large amounts of habitual consumption is going to raise your risks for weight gain,” said Murray Mittleman, associate professor and director of the Cardiovascular Epidemiology Research Unit at Harvard Medical School’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. “But if you’re going to have a treat, dark chocolate is probably a good choice, as long as it’s in moderation.”

Mittleman said that there is a difference between American chocolate and Swedish chocolate. Swedish dark chocolate has a higher cocoa content, which is linked to greater heart benefits. Even Swedish milk chocolate has a higher concentration of cocoa than dark chocolate manufactured in the United States.

Chocolate contains a high concentration of flavonoid compounds, which may lower blood pressure, according to some short-term studies. This is the first study, however, to show long-term benefits related to heart failure, which can result from high blood pressure.

"Up until now, (researchers) were focused on other outcomes, such as the effects on blood pressure and other things," Mittleman explained. “The beneficial effects on blood pressure are likely an important part of the mechanisms of what we're observing.”

Resources for Pharmacists:

For additional information on the benefits of dark chocolate, see the Pharmacy Times article “Good News! Chocolate Can Be Good for You.

Pharmacists can also give patients tips on eating less and consuming chocolate in moderation by referring to the Pharmacy Times article “What Drives People to Overeat,” by Guido Zanni, PhD.

For other articles in this issue, see:

  • Pharmacy Times Mobilizes With New iPad App
  • HHS Widget Links Patients to Affordable Coverage
  • FDA Regulators Weigh Cough Syrup Crackdown