Harvard Medicine

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Life by Chocolate

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Can chocolate protect the heart? It sounds sweetly suspect, but women who eat chocolate in moderation appear to lower their risk of heart failure, researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center recently reported in the journal Circulation: Heart Failure.

In a nine-year study of 31,823 middle-aged and elderly Swedish women, those who ate one to two weekly servings of a high-quality chocolate—with more than 50 percent cocoa content, similar to products marketed in the United States as dark chocolate—had a 32-percent lower risk of developing heart failure, a benefit earlier studies have linked to compounds called flavonoids. Yet women who consumed at least one serving daily gained no benefit.

“You can’t ignore that chocolate is a calorie-dense food and that regularly consuming large amounts will raise your risk for weight gain,” says lead researcher Murray Mittleman, an HMS associate professor of medicine. “But if you’re going to have a treat, dark chocolate is probably a good choice, as long as it’s in moderation.”

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