OC Register: Take a 3 Musketeers bar and cut it into eight pieces. One of those pieces is all the chocolate you may have each day if you want to lower your risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke by 39 percent.
The study, published in the European Heart Journal, followed 19,357 adults age 35-65 over a span of eight years. They filled out questionnaires asking them about their diet and exercise habits. The subjects who consumed an average of 7.5 grams of chocolate a day had a significantly lower incidence of heart attack or stroke than those who consumed much less chocolate, an average of 1.7 grams a day.
To illustrate just how utterly paltry and unsatisfying an indulgence 7.5 grams (just over a quarter-ounce) of chocolate is, I took five different products and chopped them into chunks of roughly that amount for the photo above: From clockwise left, that's:
* 67 percent of an 11.2-gram Lindor 60 percent extra dark truffle ball.
* 12 percent of a 60.4-gram, longer-than-usual 3 Musketeers bar.
* 18 percent of a 42-gram, four-wafer KitKat bar
* 8 percent of a 90-gram, eight-square Ghirardelli Midnight Reverie 86 percent cacao bar.
* 44 percent of a 17-gram Reese's Milk Chocolate peanut butter egg.
(I have to admit that I ate six days' worth of heart-smart mistakes during the making of that photograph.)
Dr. Vinod Malhotra, a cardiologist at Chapman Medical Center in Orange, said there seems to be a different report out each week saying that chocolate is good for you, or bad for you. But he was intrigued by this particular study, because it came from a respected peer-reviewed journal. "I'd like to study the study before I really believe it, because it sounds improbable," he said. "Something as little as a bite of chocolate can lower your risk of heart attack by 39 percent? That's amazing."
Chocolate and some plants contain flavonols, substances that help widen blood vessels and thus reduce blood pressure. Flavonols also loosen up platelets that can stick together and restrict blood flow, an effect similar to that of taking low-dose aspirin, a 2006 Johns Hopkins study found.
The study was careful to caution against eating too much chocolate, however, since excessive fat and calories will wipe out any health gain. The study's lead author, Brian Buijsse of the German Institute of Human Nutrition, recommended replacing sugary or high-fat snacks with small amounts of chocolate. Buijsse added that "dark chocolate exhibits the greatest effects, milk chocolate fewer, and white chocolate no effects."
Some aren't convinced that chocolate has any kind of therapeutic effect. Dr. Jeffrey Feiner of South Orange County Cardiology Group in Laguna Hills said that although the findings "cannot be ignored," the study was likely to "lead to more harm than good."
"Everyone is looking for a quick, happy fix," he wrote in an e-mail. "If people increase their calories by not substituting this very small amount of chocolate for less healthy foods or think this takes the place of more traditional treatments such as controlling hypertension, diabetes, not smoking or taking statins for high cholesterol, then they're fooling themselves. All the above have a much more profound effect on risk reduction."