"Moderate consumption of dark chocolate may be a reasonable consideration as part of a heart health diet," he said. "However, as there is a complex interplay between nutrition and health, further studies are needed."
Nutrition expert Samantha Heller, a dietitian, nutritionist, exercise physiologist and clinical nutrition coordinator at the Center for Cancer Care at Griffin Hospital in Derby, Conn., added that "the cocoa bean contains healthy plant compounds like flavanols, called polyphenols, that act as powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents. [They may] help keep arteries healthy and may help lower blood pressure and cholesterol.
"But, and this is a big 'but,' people should not use this study as an excuse to chow down on candy bars, chocolate ice cream and chocolate cookies. This will pack on pounds and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease," Heller cautioned.
Fruits, vegetables and legumes also contain high amounts of polyphenols, along with fiber, vitamins, and minerals, Heller said. "So, enjoy some dark chocolate periodically and watch your portion size, but get the bulk of your polyphenols from fruits and vegetables."
For more information on heart disease and diet, visit the American Heart Association.
SOURCES: Oscar H. Franco, M.D., department of public health and primary care, University of Cambridge, UK; Gregg C. Fonarow, M.D., professor, cardiology, University of California, Los Angeles; Samantha Heller, M.S., R.D., dietitian, nutritionist, exercise physiologist and clinical nutrition coordinator, Center for Cancer Care, Griffin Hospital, Derby, Conn.; Aug. 29, 2011, BMJ, online
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