Chocolate may be healthy for your heart, study says
(CNN) -- Finally some news every chocolate lover wants to hear: Chocolate may have some health benefits, according to new research presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Americans spend $13 billion on chocolate a year, and the average American eats more than 12 pounds of the sweet treat a year. Scientists say don't let that number scare you, you might just be helping your heart.
Dr. Tissa Kappagoda and his colleagues at University of California, Davis found elements in cocoa, called flavanoids, which cause blood vessels to relax and actually help prevent coronary atherosclerosis, better known as hardening of the arteries.
When arteries harden, excess cholesterol, fats and calcium collect on the walls of the arteries forming plaque. That build up prevents blood from getting to the heart and can cause clots and hemorrhages which can lead to a heart attack.
By dilating the blood vessels, flavanoids help keep the blood flowing to the heart. But dietitians warn this news may be bittersweet. While chocolate may help your heart, it may hurt your waistline.
"Flavanoids are a healthful part of foods, but just a small chocolate bar at one and a half ounces has over 225 calories and 50 percent come from fat," said registered dietitian Chris Rosenbloom. "So I wouldn't put it in the health food category."
Recent studies have also shown flavanoids found in red wine dark beer, tea and grapes juice have the same effect.
But when it when it comes down to it, Rosenbloom says the best way to get flavanoids is to eat a wide variety of foods everyday and concentrate on fruits and vegetables.
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University of California, Davis
American Heart Association
American Association for the Advancement of Science
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