A new article in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) describes the relationship between dark chocolate and heart attacks. The article is called “The effectiveness and cost effectiveness of dark chocolate consumption as prevention therapy in people at high risk of cardiovascular disease.” The authors are Ella Zomer, PhD student, Alice Owen, senior research fellow, Dianna J Magliano, senior research fellow, Danny Liew, professor, & Christopher M Reid, professor.
The researchers find that 100 grams of dark chocolate per day, at a 60% – 70% cocoa concentration, with prevent 85 heart attacks per 10,000 people over a ten year period.
That is not much.
But it is worth doing, and certainly tastes better than an aspirin a day. Now if your doctor does recommend an aspirin a day, that is a low risk intervention and has some other positive side effects. So you should follow your doctor’s recommendation. But adding dark chocolate (and not much, just 100 grams per day) not only reduces your risk of heart attack but also lowers your blood pressure.
This research is good news indeed!
Around the same time, I came across another report that berries help us to preserve and maintain our memory. Colorful berries like strawberries and blueberries contain anthocyanidins, a type of flavonoid antioxidant, which has been shown in previous studies to improve cognition. Elizabeth E. Devore, from Brigham and Women’s Hospital (Massachusetts, USA), and colleagues analyzed data collected in the Nurses’ Health Study—involving 121,700 female, registered nurses between the ages of 30 and 55 years —who completed health and lifestyle questionnaires beginning in 1976. Since 1980, participants were surveyed every four years regarding their frequency of food consumption. Between 1995 and 2001, memory was measured in 16,010 subjects over the age of 70 years, at 2-year intervals. Women included in the present study had a mean age of 74 years and mean body mass index of 26. The team found that women who consumed 2 or more servings of strawberries and blueberries each week experienced a slower rate of memory decline, as compared to subjects who consumed the least berries weekly. Further, a greater intake of anthocyanidins and total flavonoids associated with reduced memory decline. The study authors conclude that: “berry intake appears to delay cognitive aging by up to 2.5 years.”
If you’d like to look up the study, here is the reference: Elizabeth E. Devore, Jae Hee Kang, Monique M. B. Breteler, Francine Grodstein. “Dietary intakes of berries and flavonoids in relation to cognitive decline.” Annals of Neurology, April 25, 2012.
I think what we learn is the rule of a “rainbow diet” holds up rather well. When you look at your plate, you should see lots of colors. The bad news is that any manufactured food does not count as a colorful food. Michael Pollan’s rule should be followed: if it grew on a plant, eat it. If it was made in a plant, avoid it! There is practically no food you can buy that is prepared that is good for you. They are high in unhealthy fats, salt, and sugar, and are generally based on corn, which is too high in omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and lacks the essential omega-3 PUFAs.
Other research has shown that a rainbow diet also improves our emotional health. A diet rich in colorful natural foods and fish has been shown in many studies to reduce the risk of depression and anxiety, as well as the usual physical health benefits.
Societies where people mostly eat vegetables and fruit, less meat and no sugars are societies where the people are healthy and vigorous into old age. If we make some fairly simple shifts in our diets, so we are following their lead, we will reap a harvest of better emotional and physica