Τρίτη, 5 Μαρτίου 2013

Love, Chocolate Good for the Heart, Says Cardiologist

Being involved in a healthy, loving relationship is good for the heart,
says Vanderbilt Heart and Vascular Institute cardiologist Julie Damp, M.D. "There are a couple of different theories behind why that might be," Damp said. 


People who are married or who are in close, healthy relationships tend to be less likely to smoke, are more physically active and are more likely to have a well-developed social structure, she said. They are also more likely to have lower levels of stress and anxiety in their day-to-day lives.

"There is a theory that people who are in loving relationships may experience neuro-hormonal changes that have positive effects on the body, including the cardiovascular system," Damp said, explaining that there are certain hormone levels in the body that vary depending on the level of an individual's stress and anxiety.

"This has not been proven, but the idea is that being in a relationship that is positive may have positive effects on your cardiovascular system over long periods of time," Damp said. In fact, studies have shown that relationships that involve conflict or negativity are associated with an increase in risk for coronary artery disease.

Giving your loved one a box of dark chocolates and a bottle of red wine won't hurt either. Studies suggest they are good for the heart, as well.
Dark chocolate contains flavonoids, which are antioxidants. Antioxidants have positive effects on many different body systems including the cardiovascular system. The high concentration of cocoa in dark chocolate appears to be what offers the flavonoid benefit.

"Dark chocolate has been shown to be associated with lower blood pressure, lower blood sugar levels and improvement in the way your blood vessels dilate and relax," Damp said. Further study is needed to know exactly which type of chocolate and how much of it is the most beneficial, but studies have shown that people who eat chocolate more than once a week have lower risks of heart disease and stroke compare to people who eat it less frequently. "Fat and calorie content of chocolate also needs to be taken into consideration and kept consistent with a healthy, balanced diet," Damp said.

Flavonoids are also present in red wine. Multiple observational studies have shown that moderate alcohol consumption, which is one drink a day for women and one to two for men, is associated with lower rates of cardiovascular events such as heart attacks.

However, Damp cautions that there is not enough evidence to encourage people who don't currently drink to start drinking. There are potential negative health effects of long-term alcohol use, and the flavonoids found in red wine can be found in other food and drink like fruits and vegetables and grape juice, she said.

"A good message is that these things should be done in moderation and in conjunction with your physician's plan for you to lower your cardiovascular risk," Damp added.

(Reuters) - Eating chocolate is not only a treat for the tongue -- it may also have some tangible benefits for heart health, such as lowering blood pressure slightly, according to a study involving more than a thousand people.

The study, which combined the results of 42 smaller studies and was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, also found that participants had small improvements in blood vessel function and a dip in their insulin levels.

A number of past studies have found that chocolate lovers seem to have lower rates of certain heart risks, such as high blood pressure.

"My take-away message would be that if people like dark chocolate, then eating a little in place of other 'treat' foods is fine, and may be beneficial," said study leader Lee Hooper, at Norwich Medical School in the UK.

"However, the evidence is not yet good enough to suggest that we should all be doing this."

She cautioned that the studies involved were neither large enough nor long enough to show whether eating chocolate has any effect on a person's risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

In contrast to past studies, which were largely observational and couldn't prove cause-and-effect -- that chocolate itself caused the changes -- the current study focused on clinical trials, where researchers assigned people to eat chocolate or not and then watched for changes in blood pressure, cholesterol and other heart risk factors.

Hooper and her team pooled data from 42 small clinical trials involving about 1,300 people and found that chocolate eaters had a few points knocked off their blood pressure readings, along with lower insulin levels and other benefits.

Though it's not clear why chocolate has this affect, it's believed to be due to compounds known as flavonoids, which are also present in foods such as nuts, soy, tea and wine.

But researchers acknowledged shortcomings in their study, including differences in the people involved in the trials -- some healthy, some with chronic health problems -- and different ways of testing chocolate's effects.

Some studies used cocoa drinks, some solid chocolate and some cocoa supplements. They also varied in how long people were "treated," though most trials lasted less than six weeks.

The biggest question may be whether any benefits would be worth the downside of chocolate. Based on the studies they used, Hooper's team writes, it could take several hundred calories' worth of chocolate to see effects on insulin and blood vessel function -- and that could mean trouble for your waistline.

"From a practical perspective it is premature to advise individuals to consume chocolate or cocoa to decrease their risk of cardiovascular disease," said Alice Lichtenstein, director of the cardiovascular nutrition lab at Tufts University in Boston, who was not part of the study.

For now, she added, if you enjoy a little chocolate in your life, you can probably keep doing so. Just don't add it in the hopes of helping your heart.

Δεν υπάρχουν σχόλια:

Δημοσίευση σχολίου