(NaturalNews) Women over 70 are less likely to die or be hospitalized due to heart disease, according to a controlled 10-year study conducted by researchers at the University of Western Australia. To determine the link between chocolate consumption and atherosclerotic vascular disease (ASVD) events, the randomized study collected data from 1,216 women over the age of 70. The results have been published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
Of the subjects involved in the research, more than 47% had less than a serving of chocolate per week; about 36% consumed one to six servings per week; and the remaining 17% had more than seven servings.
The group that consumed the most chocolate had the least incidence of heart-related death or hospitalization (42 incidents); the group that had six servings or fewer had 90 incidents of cardiovascular-related problems; and the group that rarely consumed chocolate had the highest rate of heart-related problems (158 incidents).
Although the subjects were divided into three groups, the groups that consumed chocolate weekly and daily, respectively, had similar overall results. This suggests that one serving per week could have significant benefits.
The women involved in the study provided the researchers with estimates on their frequency of chocolate consumption. For the purposes of the study, a single serving was equivalent to the amount of cocoa found in one cup of hot raw cocoa.
Raw cocoa, which is the principal ingredient in raw chocolate, is rich in flavonoids. In recent prospective cohort studies flavonoids have been associated with a 50% lower risk of heart-related deaths. This 10-year study investigated this link more closely in a controlled fashion.
This is the first prospective study in older women that demonstrates a link between chocolate intake and reduced atherosclerotic plaque, which causes ASVD.
Other studies have shown benefits from regular chocolate intake. For example, in 2008 Italian researchers determined that regular consumption of dark chocolate may reduce inflammation linked to heart and blood vessel disease.
In 2007, another study showed that foods rich in flavonoids, such as dark chocolate and red wine, may help postmenopausal women prevent coronary heart disease, cardiovascular disease, and stroke.
There is a growing amount of evidence pointing to the health benefits of raw cocoa. Lewis said the next step should be a large clinical trial to vigorously test chocolate's benefits.