MONDAY, Aug. 16 (HealthDay News) -- Eating a small amount of high-quality dark chocolate one to three times a month may help stave off heart failure in women, a new Harvard study suggests.
But if you ingest too much "good" chocolate, that protective effect goes away, according to the researchers who report their finding in the Aug. 17 issue of Circulation: Heart Failure.
"At least for women, consumption of chocolate seems to be associated with a decreased risk of heart failure, but the protective effect was only seen with relatively small amounts of consumption, less than one serving a day," said senior study author Dr. Murray Mittleman. "With higher levels, the benefit appears to be lost and perhaps even [have] a detrimental effect."
While the redeeming health qualities of chocolate have been extolled before, other studies had not specifically looked at heart failure, Mittleman said.
"Up until now, [researchers] were focused on other outcomes, such as the effects on blood pressure and other things," he explained.
And those studies did find that moderate amounts of chocolate do seem to lower blood pressure.
"The beneficial effects on blood pressure are likely an important part of the mechanisms of what we're observing," said Mittleman, who is director of the Cardiovascular Epidemiology Research Unit at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center at Harvard Medical School in Boston.
The study authors studied the chocolate-eating habits of 31,823 Swedish women, aged 48 to 83, reported over a period of nine years.
Women who ate one to three servings of chocolate (20 to 30 grams) a month had a 32 percent reduced risk of heart failure, compared to women who did not eat the sweet regularly. More chocolate than that (one to two servings a week), and the benefit disappeared, while much more than that (three to six servings a week), and the risk actuall
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