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Chocolate May Cut Heart Failure Risk

But Researchers Say Quantity and Quality of Chocolate Are Key Factors in Health Benefits

U.S. Chocolate vs. European Chocolate continued...

Researchers say that though 90% of all chocolate eaten in Sweden during the study period was milk chocolate, it contained about 30% cocoa solids.

In the U.S., chocolate that has only 15% cocoa solids can be classified as dark chocolate.

The authors say people in the U.S., therefore, may have fewer health benefits and more calories per equivalent amounts of cocoa content compared to the chocolate eaten by the Swedish women in the study.

In addition, the average size of a serving for Swedish women ranged from 19 grams among those 62 and older to 30 grams among participants 61 and younger. In the U.S., however, the standard portion size is 20 grams.

Watch Your Portions

"Those tempted to use these data as their rationale for eating large amounts of chocolate or engaging in more frequent chocolate consumption are not interpreting this study appropriately," says Linda Van Horn, PhD, RD, professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine.

"This is not an 'eat all you want' take-home message," says Van Horn, former chair of the American Heart Associations nutrition committee. "Rather, it's that eating a little dark chocolate can be healthful, as long as other adverse behaviors do not occur, such as weight gain or excessive intake of non-nutrient dense 'empty' calories."

About 1% of Americans over 65 experience heart failure, a condition in which the heart is unable to pump enough blood to the rest of the body. Rates of heart failure, the news release says, are increasing as the population of the U.S. ages.

The researchers say more study is needed to confirm their findings, because, as Mittleman says in the news release, "anything that helps to decrease heart failure is an important issue worth examining."

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