Heart attack: The winter drink that could offer ‘significant protection’ against disease

What's the difference between a heart attack and cardiac arrest?

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Scientists from the division of cardiology, pulmonology, and vascular medicine at University Duesseldorf, Germany, said: “Cocoa flavanol (CF) intake improves endothelial function in patients with cardiovascular risk factors and disease.” Cocoa flavanols are bioactive compounds naturally found in cocoa beans. In a randomised, controlled double-masked, parallel-group dietary intervention trial, the following took place.

One hundred healthy, middle-aged adults (between the ages of 35 to 60) either consumed a drink containing cocoa flavanols or a nutrient-matched cocoa flavanol-free control drink.

Both drinks were consumed daily for one month, before the results were gathered.

The results recorded arterial stiffness, plasma lipids (i.e. cholesterol) and blood pressure.

People who consumed the cocoa flavanol drink had less arterial stiffness compared to the control group.

Furthermore, the group who consumed the cocoa flavanol drink had a reduced systolic and diastolic blood pressure reading.

On average, the cocoa drinking group had a systolic blood pressure reading that was lowered by 4.4mmHg compared to the control group.

As for the diastolic blood pressure reading, there was a reduction of 3.9mmHg.

In addition, the cocoa group also benefited from lower cholesterol (i.e. lipid) levels.

To conclude, the scientists reported: “CF [cocoa flavanol] predicted a significant lowering of 10-year risk for… myocardial infarction [heart attack].”

The consumption of the cocoa drink also significantly lowered the risk of coronary artery disease, cardiovascular disease, and death.

Cocoa flavanols can be found in hot chocolate, suggesting such a drink could help to mitigate a heart attack alongside a healthy lifestyle.

However, the British Heart Foundation (BHF) highlighted this research was a “relatively small study”.

“We don’t know whether a study of larger numbers of people would have yielded the same results,” the British Heart Foundation said.

The charity added: “This study was funded by the European Union and by Mars, who also provided the drinks used in the study.”

Drinking hot chocolate may not have the same level of flavanols seen in the study.

Furthermore, hot chocolate is likely to contain high amounts of fat and sugar, which isn’t ideal for your health.

Dietician Tracy Parker added: “Flavanols have been shown to have a benefit to the heart.

“However, fruit and vegetables, such as dark green vegetables, berries and beetroot are also a source of these compounds.

“In addition to this, fruit and vegetables provide us with a range of other vitamins, minerals and fibre.

“And [fruits and vegetables] should form a core part of a balanced, healthy diet.”

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