Holiday Sweets; Treats or Trouble?

The holiday season is invariably accompanied by holiday desserts. But how much to partake, if to indulge it all, is the missing piece of this tempting pie. A recent study conducted in Sweden and published in the American Heart Journal (2017 Jan;183:18-23. doi: 10.1016/j.ahj.2016.10.002. Epub 2016 Oct 6.), helps fill in some of the sweet spots; at least with respect to chocolate.

This study examined almost 32,000 men aged 45 to 79. The researchers sought to see if there was any association between the consumption of chocolate and the risk of developing heart failure (HF). Heart failure (HF) is a common cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. There are an estimated 5.1 million people with HF in the United States and 23 million who suffer from this worldwide.

The trial followed the participants over a fourteen year period. Compared to those who consumed no chocolate, those consuming 3 to 6 servings per week had the greatest risk reduction in the likelihood of developing heart failure. This group saw an 18% risk reduction. However, even those consuming just 1 to 3 servings per month saw a benefit with a 12% risk reduction compared to those who consumed no chocolate at all. Yet moderation remained the key. Those consuming one or more servings per day saw a 10% increased risk of developing heart failure. It is important to note that chocolate consumption is often accompanied by sugar and other sweeteners and some element of increased risk may be due to crossing a threshold of sugar consumption; as opposed to any inherent detrimental effect from chocolate. Prior research has associated chocolate intake with a lower incidence of stroke and heart attack, as well. The dessert take away is to take away-in moderation!

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