Thursday, December 3, 2009

Chocolate and Heart Attacks

Sisters and Brothers, so far we've looked at a few claims about the health benefits of chocolate and cocoa and most of the time your Chocolate Priestess's number one concern has been that these studies done on lab animals are being too quickly applied to human models without appropriate testing.  Not so for today's topic involves study of human heart attack survivors and chocolate.

There have been reports of two studies involving heart attacks and chocolate  this fall.  The first one I saw was an Swedish study that asked 1,169 nondiabetic men and women to self report on their consumption of chocolate.  This study followed these same heart attack suffers for eight years and concluded that chocolate increased their likelihood of survival.  There are problems with this study that revolve around self-reporting issues and the lack of a control group.  The basic point that I'm seeing touted about the Internet is that the more often these people at chocolate, the greater their chances of survival but I don't want to mislead anyone into self-medicating with chocolate so I'm not going to report the survival rates here, please research and talk to your own doctor if you have had a heart attack.

The second report comes from a Spanish study which was much smaller but which had a control group where one part of the 42 men and women studied, average age of 70 years, were placed on a diet that included 1.4oz of unsweetened cocoa powder mixed with skim milk or simply had plain skim milk daily.  How much milk was consumed is unclear but the study did say that the subjects did not take any other supplements, not even daily vitamins.  Unlike the reports on the Swedish study these reports only said that subjects were studied for a month and I'd like to see a more longitudinal study to see if the effects remain consistant.

Note that in each study the group researched had very specific health concerns.  The first were first time heart attack survivors and the second were the elderly with a high risk of health problems based on cholesterol levels.  Neither of these studies say that the average person should increase their own cocoa and chocolate milk consumption for health benefits.  That's a claim that is being used to sell chocolate, not to actually help your body out.

Remember, Sisters and Brothers, while we in The Chocolate Cult practice Moderation and use of Chocolate for  a Purpose, that Purpose need not be health or medical related.  Just be honest with yourself about why you are reaching for that bar or pouring a glass of chocolate milk or serving that cake and you are using the Sacred Substance more wisely than you were before.  If you want to see if cocoa can have health benefits for you, do your research, be very careful about what you believe and use, and, hey, why not consult with your primary care physician too.  We want you here reading, commenting, and sharing Chocolate for a long, long time.

Sisters and Brothers, may you too take the time to slowly appreciate what the Divine and human ingenuity have offered you in chocolate.

Articles consulted for this post:
New York Times
U.S. News


Shayna Theti-Sheri said...

Studies have shown that the cocoa bean
(bittersweet dark chocolate) which is high in Antioxidant if taken in moderation(the size of 1 hershey's kiss) has proven to be a source of lowering blood pressure in older individuals and those with hypertension stage 1. There has been little concern about weight gain with this method also because the amount of calories in 1 hershey's kiss is approximately 30 cals. Proven these methods the cocoa bean in moderation helps thin the blood.

TheChocolatePriestess said...

This is a good comment, Shayna, and thank you for reading and posting.

We've looked at several studies over the year here in The Chocolate Cult. Most say that you need to eat 3oz of dark 70% or higher cocoa content to get the greatest health benefits. But those are general studies while these I pointed to today looked at specific groups of people and the benefits. The mass media review of these studies, I couldn't find the actual studies without being using a university connection, have problems that I need to caution people about.

No one should self-medicate and I'll say it again:

You don't need a health reason to use chocolate, just be honest and aware of what you are using it.