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Chocolate and red wine won't beat heart disease

Kimberly Gillan
Thursday, August 30, 2012
Thinkstock

Wine and chocolate lovers are always quick to pounce on health reports that their favourite indulgences are good for their heart, but specialists warn they might not have the magic properties many like to believe.

Despite a study review last year that found high chocolate consumers had a 37 percent reduced risk of heart disease, German researchers say the study was flawed and that proof is yet to be seen.

But Steffen Desche from the University of Leipzig Heart Centre in Germany said a more comprehensive study is almost impossible because scientists would need to compare people eating chocolate with people eating a "dummy" substance that tasted and looked like chocolate.

"Despite the studies I couldn't yet recommend dark chocolate as a prevention or treatment in cardiovascular disease," he said at the European Congress of Cardiology in Munich.

"There's no strong evidence of a benefit and no clear explanation of an effective mechanism."

Desch pointed out that the high amount of calories in chocolate is likely to have negative heart health effects.

This comes as Dutch researchers suggest red wine doesn’t have the heart health benefits that are often claimed.

Eric Sijbrands, of Erasmus University Medical Centre in Rotterdam, who led multiple studies into red wine and the heart, said there is not a single ingredient that appears to help the heart.

They tested resveratrol, a phytoalexin found in red wine grape skin that is believed to help prevent ageing.

However when Sijbrands fed resveratrol capsules to patients with hypertension for four weeks, there was no reduction in blood pressure.

"Certainly I would never actively prescribe red wine for a heart condition and, even if I was asked about it, I would be cautious," he said.

Like chocolate, Sijbrands warned the negative effects of drinking too much alcohol probably outweighed any potential heart benefits.

Dr Robert Grenfell, clinical issues director at the Heart Foundation, told ninemsn that it's best to go easy on red wine and chocolate.

"A little chocolate or the occasional glass of red wine is okay as part of a balanced diet, but if you're consuming them thinking you're reducing your risk of heart disease then think again," he said.

"Chocolate and red wine are often credited with having a positive influence on health due to their antioxidant properties, but there are much better ways to get those benefits. The best way to get enough antioxidants is to eat a variety of plant based foods, such as vegetables, fruit, legumes, wholegrain breads and cereals as well as nuts and seeds every day."

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