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    Nibble on Chocolate for a Healthier Heart

    A Square of Chocolate a Day Linked to Lower Risk of Heart Attack and Stroke

    Chocolate and Heart Attack Risk continued...

    “To put it in terms of absolute risk, if people in the group eating the least amount of chocolate (of whom 219 per 10,000 had a heart attack or stroke) increased their chocolate intake by six grams a day, 85 fewer heart attacks and strokes per 10,000 people could be expected to occur over a period of about 10 years,” Buijsse says.

    People who ate the most chocolate also had blood pressure that was about 1 point systolic (the top number in a blood pressure reading) and 0.9 point diastolic (the bottom number) lower than people who ate the least amount of chocolate.

    Flavanols in Chocolate Help Heart

    Researchers say the benefits of chocolate on reducing heart disease risk appear to be because of the high flavanol content of cocoa. Flavanols are a type of antioxidant, and chocolates with a higher percentage of cocoa, such as dark chocolate, contain more flavanols.

    “Flavanols appear to be the substances in cocoa that are responsible for improving the bioavailability of nitric oxide from the cells that line the inner wall of blood vessels,” Buijsse says. “Nitric oxide is a gas that, once released, causes the smooth muscle cells of the blood vessels to relax and widen; this may contribute to lower blood pressure. Nitric oxide also improves platelet function, making the blood less sticky.”

    Experts say together with previous research the results of this study build a strong case that eating a daily dose of chocolate is healthy for the heart.

    “Basic science has demonstrated quite convincingly that dark chocolate particularly, with a cocoa content of at least 70%, reduces oxidative stress and improves vascular and platelet function,” Frank Ruschitzka, professor of cardiology and director of heart failure/transplantation at the University Hospital Zurich in Switzerland, says in the release.

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