In a study that will provide comfort to chocoholics everywhere, researchers in Sweden have found evidence that people who eat chocolate have increased survival rates after a heart attack — and it may be that the more they eat, the better.The scientists followed 1,169 nondiabetic men and women who had been hospitalized for a first heart attack. Each filled out a standardized health questionnaire that included a question about chocolate consumption over the past 12 months. Chocolate contains flavonoid antioxidants that are widely believed to have beneficial cardiovascular effects.
The patients had a health examination three months after their discharge from the hospital, and researchers followed them for the next eight years using Swedish national registries of hospitalizations and deaths. After controlling for age, sex, obesity, physical inactivity, smoking, education and other factors, they found that the more chocolate people consumed, the more likely they were to survive. The results are reported in the September issue of The Journal of Internal Medicine.
Compared with people who ate none, those who had chocolate less than once a month had a 27 percent reduction in their risk for cardiac death, those who ate it up to once a week had a 44 percent reduction and those who indulged twice or more a week had a 66 percent reduced risk of dying from a subsequent heart event. The beneficial effect remained after controlling for intake of other kinds of sweets.
But before concluding that a box of Godiva truffles is health food, chocolate lovers may want to consider some of the study’s weaknesses. It is an observational study, not a randomized trial, so cause and effect cannot be definitively established. The scientists did not ask what kind of chocolate the patients ate, and milk chocolate has less available flavonoid than dark chocolate. Finally, chocolate consumption did not reduce the risk for any nonfatal cardiac event.