You couldn’t walk into a pharmacy like CVS or Walgreen’s over the past few weeks without getting bombarded with the pastel colors of Easter eggs and chocolate candy displays. Come the day after Easter all this candy will be on sale, and even if you don’t celebrate Easter, you might be apt to pick some up on your next trip in. It doesn’t take much for us to justify indulging in our favorite treats. When a research study comes along promoting the benefits of green tea, red wine, or even chocolate, people automatically use it as an excuse to jump on the bandwagon and indulge more.
A recent study published in the European Heart Journal may make you inclined to run out and take advantage of these Easter sales (1), but proceed with caution. The study looked at 19,357 individuals over eight years who were free of myocardial infarction, stroke, not taking anti-hypertensive medications and their dietary intake of chocolate. What they found was that individuals who consumed chocolate had a lower risk of heart attacks and strokes, which they believed was due to the effects of the chocolate on lowering blood pressure (1).
How much chocolate were they consuming exactly? About one small square a week. The authors believe that a group of polyphenols, called flavonols found in cocoa, may be what lowered people’s blood pressure (2). Unfortunately, you won’t be able to find much of this group of flavonols among the Easter candy selections. Generally the more flavonols, the more bitter the chocolate, so the darker the better.
Just remember chocolate is a calorically dense food and high in saturated fat, so if you do consume, consume in moderation!
- Buijsse B, C Weikert, D Drogan, M Bergmann, H Boeing. Chocolate consumption in relation to blood pressure and risk of cardiovascular disease in German adults. Eur Heart J March 30, 2010.
- Chocolate 'can cut blood pressure and help heart'. Available at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/8593887.stm. Accessed: March 30, 2010.