Aging Mothers-Adult Daughters: Dreams of Chocolate

Just about everyone dreams of eating chocolate. Well, not everyone. My husband is someone who really doesn’t care for it that much. But recent research brings some interesting news for the rest of us — a little indulgence may be OK.

According to an August 16, 2010 study, Chocolate Intake and Incidence of Heart Failure: a Population-Based, Prospective Study of Middle-Aged and Elderly  Women (that would mean senior moms and adult daughters), moderate habitual chocolate consumption is “associated with a lower rate of HF [heart failure] hospitalization or death.” The study, led by researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (affiliated with Harvard Medical School) and published by Circulation: Heart Failure, examined the diets and heart failure outcomes of more than 31,000 women between the ages of 48 and 83 over nine years.

Data for this study came from the Swedish Mammography Cohort study based at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. Individuals with diabetes or heart conditions at the time the study started were not included.

Participants filled out health, lifestyle, and food-frequency assessment forms. While there have been previous studies identifying an association between chocolate and lower blood pressure and other cardioprotective factors (for example, Flavonoid-Rich Dark Chocolate Improves Endothelial Function and Increases Plasma Epicatechin Concentrations in Healthy Adults), there had been no research looking at the direct relationship between chocolate intake and heart failure — until now.

Please read my post on association vs. causation if you are unfamiliar with these two concepts.

Interesting Findings

  • Moderate habitual chocolate is associated with a lower rate of heart failure hospitalizations or death.
  • There was no increase in protection when a women consumed more than three servings of chocolate each week.
  • When the researchers controlled the data for other snacking habits, the chocolate association with heart failure remained the same.
  • When researchers controlled the data for age, socioeconomic status, smoking (things that might also be related to heart failure), the chocolate association with heart failure remained the same.
  • Chocolate is one of the most concentrated sources of flavonoids. Past studies of shorter duration suggested that this compound might be responsible for improving cardiovascular risk factors, but this long-term study looked directly at the outcome of chocolate consumption on heart health.

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