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TCHO New American Chocolate

Chocolate protects against cardiac mortality following myocardial infarction

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the USA. More than 26 million non-institutionalized adults are diagnosed with heart disease. Over 1.25 million Americans suffer a heart attack each year…

Chocolate Is Associated with Lower Mortality Following First Myocardial Infarction [MI]

Amount of chocolate consumption was related inversely to cardiac-related mortality during an 8-year follow-up
Several studies have suggested that chocolate, perhaps in a process mediated by its antioxidant content, protects the heart (JW Gen Med Jul 10 2007 and JW Gen Med Sep 23 2003). A Swedish team identified 1169 nondiabetic patients who were hospitalized with initial nonfatal myocardial infarctions. Detailed food histories for the preceding 12 months were completed by 86% of patients; participants were followed for an additional 8 years.

Compared with patients who never ate chocolate, those who ate chocolate less than once monthly suffered 27% less cardiac-related mortality (after multivariate adjustments); risk was 44% lower for weekly chocolate eaters and 66% lower for those who ate chocolate two or more times weekly. Nonfatal adverse cardiac events, strokes, and total mortality, however, were not related clearly to chocolate consumption. Consuming other sweets (e.g., cookies, cakes, ice cream) had no relation to cardiac mortality.

Comment: The strengths of this study are its size and long-term follow-up. The main weakness is that chocolate consumption was assessed only once, during hospitalization for initial MIs, and not during follow-up.

To me, the most interesting result of the study is that chocolate strongly protected against cardiac mortality but not against adverse cardiac events. The same finding has been reported for ω-3 fatty acid supplements, which suggests that the primary beneficial effect of both chocolate and ω-3 fatty acid supplements is in suppressing arrhythmias. 

— Anthony L. Komaroff, MD 

Published in Journal Watch General Medicine September 3, 2009

Janszky I et al. Chocolate consumption and mortality following a first acute myocardial infarction: The Stockholm Heart Epidemiology Program. J Intern Med 2009 Sep; 266:248.[Medline® Abstract]

Copyright © 2009. Massachusetts Medical Society. All rights reserved.