Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Chocolate - in the name of science.

Here’s a study I could really get into. I just read that one hundred and fifty women in London will be eating chocolate every day for a year, as part of a research study into the health benefits of cocoa.

Okay – first things first. Where was I when they were asking for volunteers? If there’s anything I can relate to, it’s chocolate.

This study is being held at the University of East Anglia and the purpose is to determine whether compounds in chocolate can cut the risk of heart disease specifically in women with type 2 diabetes.

Since I am a woman and since heart disease is a huge issue with women I’m liking the idea that FINALLY doctors are incorporating not only innovative studies but studies a women can love. I mean, who can’t get into chocolate? And in the name of science? It’s win win all the way.

The kicker: Doctors have cautioned that the general population, and especially diabetics should not start eating large quantities of chocolate unsupervised, as it also contains lots of sugar and fat, which worsen diabetes and promote weight gain.

Chocolate promotes weight gain? Humm.

Back to the study. Cocoa, the main ingredient of chocolate, is a rich source of compounds called flavonoids, which have been shown to decrease risk factors for heart disease. Generally the process of making chocolate from cocoa destroys the majority of these compounds, however, a Belgian chocolatier has developed a specially formulated chocolate bar for the study with extra flavonoids and added soy, which is also a rich source of the chemicals.

The study is hoping to show that adding flavonoids to the diet of the 150 subjects, provide additional protection from heart disease and give women the opportunity to take more control over reducing their risk of heart disease in the future and possibly improve the level of protection against heart disease over and above that provided by conventional drugs.

We all knew that chocolate was good for us, right? It elevates moods, makes the mouth happy and looks so pretty in those gold foil boxes with pretty ribbons. I’ll be anxious to see the results of this study. In the meantime, I’ve already initiated my ‘chocolate kiss a day’ plan and I’m happy to report, I’m feeling better all ready.

Seriously, my mother suffered from heart disease for many years. I suspect all of us know someone special who has had type two diabetes or other heart related medical conditions. I’m trying very hard to take care of my heart – and no, not just with chocolate although chocolate does make my little heart sing. I’m attempting to exercise more, eat less saturated fats – you know the drill. So my question is, what about you? Young, old, or in between, we all face the potential of dealing with some level of heart disease. What are you doing to protect your heart? And if you aren’t doing anything, don’t you think it’s time you start?


lois greiman said...

Hate to say it, but I'm afraid exercise really does help. As Americans, we pretty much drive everwhere...when we're not busy sitting on our ever-expanding behinds. Our poor hearts have forgotten what they're supposed to be doing...ie...circulating with enthusiasm to keep all our various parts healthy.

But hey, chocolate is soooooooo much more appealing. They say a glass of wine's good too.

Who says all the news is gloomy?

Playground Monitor said...

And just yesterday I read where multi-vitamins with antioxidants might actually be BAD for us. Geez!

My dad died from a massive heart attack at age 48 so I've long been aware of my risk of heart disease. I quit eating salt years ago and watch the fats and cholesterol.

I've turned into flab because my foot problems kept me from exercising for the past 9 months. I had foot surgery in February and have been released by the doc so I'm going to check out Curves this week along with the gym my husband belongs to (and his membership includes me too, but if the Army gym is like the NASA gym, it isn't very female friendly, especially for females over age 55).

With spring weather here, I've been gardening, which is actually halfway decent exercise and I plan to start power walking in the neighborhood again since we have nice sidewalks everywhere.

I actually do have a "kiss a day" and love the dark chocolate ones. It's enough to satisfy the sweet tooth after dinner. Okay, so I have two.


PJ said...

My mom died of a heart attack at age 53 so I have also been very heart aware for a number of years. With the guidance of my doctor and nutritionist from the Berkeley Heart Lab, I've been on a heart health diet for about 18 months that includes exercise goals. I walk a lot and go to Curves. I'm in my mid 50s and in better shape, and with better "numbers", than I've had in years.

Michele Hauf said...

I'm proud to say there aren't a lot of days that go by without my daily dose (or two) or chocolate. Did the study say anything about dark opposed to milk chocolate, Cindy? We've been hearing dark is the one, but I love milk chocolate. So I'm crossing my fingers the scientists will see the milky way. :-)

I remember when my kids were younger (they both have brown eyes) I'd give them a look in the eye and say 'hmm, not brown enough today, you need more chocolate.'

Betina Krahn said...

LOL, Michele-- I bet your kids LOVED you for that! I should try that with my little grands!

Heart probs run in my family, too. Both parents had things-- though much later in life. Dad had the triple by-pass at 73 and lived for ten more very healthy years. My mom had astronomically high cholesterol for years and the doctor said her Alzheimer's started with "small artery disease" in the brain-- clogs of small arteries that killed brain cells. So when my cholesterol wouldn't come down with diet-- and boy, I really tried!-- my doctor put me on a statin drug early on.

I'm a sporadic exerciser, though down here I'm trying to walk more and do my machines. Diabetes runs in the family, too, so I have that to fight.

Personal experience: When my fiance developed diabetes, we began walking each morning. WE had always heard that exercise helped but did our own experiment.
We took blood sugar readings for him and me before walking three miles and after. (Those new blood sugar meters are wonderful!)

My fiancee's blood sugar dropped 35 points during a walk. Mine dropped 25. (Same distance, sigh. Guys have an exercise edge.) And on the days we walked, he'd sometimes take his sugar again later and discovered the exercise tended to keep the blood sugar lower all day. Seeing it demonstrated so personally was a revelation. The fiancee now is off all meds. . . maintaining with just diet and exercise! I'm so proud of him!

So eating low carb, lots of fresh foods, exercising, taking meds for BP and cholesterol. . . I'm doing what I can. And my numbers for avoiding diabetes are good and getting better. If my current stint at Weight Watchers works, I have hope I may escape it altogether.

loralee said...

Women and heart disease - what a timely topic and one that I can relate to personally.

Four weeks ago I underwent a triple by-pass, two heart valve repairs and a MAZE procedure to correct an a-fib condition. Today my recovery is slow but steady and I expect to be around for many years. Oh, by the way, I'm 72 years old and had a heart attack 12years ago.

Excercise, diet and positive thinking prior to the surgery were important factors that helped me come through the extensive surgery so well. Stubborness might have helped, too.

So far, my taste buds have been out-of-whack because of the meds, but as soon as things begin to taste good again, I'm giving chocolate another try. (Smile)

I encourage all of you to be aware of your heart and take good care of it. Have regular check-ups and don't ignore any warning signs you might think are unimportant. You know your body better than anyone.

Helen Brenna said...

Wow, Loralee, your story is amazing! Take care of yourself!

Something I do that hasn't been mentioned yet is Omega 3s and 6s. I take what in effect is fish oil pills every day.

I still love my chocolate though! Dark for me.

Playground Monitor said...

You go, Loralee!

I tried the low-carb thing and if I never see another egg and strip of turkey bacon again I'll die a happy woman. I tried fish oil pills and stayed nauseated because it was like burping dead fish up. I do eat loads of fresh veggies and fruits and lots of chicken.

My Curves appointment is at 2:00 today and I found out the Army gym the DH goes to is just like the NASA one he used to go to, so I'm not even gonna go there. It's designed for men and I was always having to adapt around a piece of equipment that was too big for me. Plus, I was uncomfortable being the only female in a gym full of men. The other female members exercised before or after work or during lunch. I was there at mid-morning. I may have to wait until my next writing check comes in, which won't be til late May -- unless the DH will give me Curves as an anniversary present or loan me the money til my check comes in.

Life's a beeyatch, ain't it?


Cindy Gerard said...

Hey all. What great comments and it goes to show - that chocolate and heart health are primary concerns for all of us. Loralee - what a story and wow, I'm so glad you're on the mend and taking such good care of yourself.
Obviously, one needs no incentive to eat chocolate. What we DO need is incentive to exercise. At least I do. I don't like the hot sweaty part :o) So to build on this, besides KNOWING that it's good for you, what do you all do to motivate yourself to walk or exercise or lift weights? I find myself so mired in my writing that I use it as an excuse to avoid exercise every op I get. What's up with that?

loralee said...

Helen, my DH had a quad by-pass fourteen months ago and is on fish oil pills, too. So far, they've not been added to my meds, but I understand their importance.

We eat fish three times a week, rarely eat red meat and always have plenty of fruits and vegetables available. Living in a rural area, we have our own vegetable gardens in the summer.

Playground monitor, if you can't use the gym, I recommend good old walking, if you can. My heart surgeon told me it's what he advises all his patients to do more than any other exercise. Fortunately, it's my favorite thing to do.

Betina, glad to hear you and your sweetie have those numbers under control. Sounds like you're doing everything right.

Cindy, my motivation to walk is looking at the scars on my chest. (Grin) Seriously, it was easy to lose myself in my writing, but when shortness of breath and other signs showed up, well, I knew I had to do something. You see, I have a list of things to do - my own version of a bucket list - and I have a long way to go before I accomplish everything. And I have grandchildren I want to see grow up.

To everyone who is dealing with health issues, I know it isn't easy, but everything you do to take care of your body will pay off big time.

It's no fun going through extensive surgery, but I'm grateful the surgeon was able to fix my problems. He told me as long as he had the hood up, he was going to give the engine a complete overhaul. Thanks to his expxertise, I've got a happy heart now. It was worth it.

Cindy Gerard said...

Loralee, you're an inspiration. And yes, I remember my mother's scars and what all she went through. Life truly is short and we DO need to make the most of what time we've got. and while that includes chocolate :o) it must also include taking care of ourselves. Good on you!!

Debra Dixon said...

Marilyn-- Curves is great. I only stopped going because mine closes for a whopping 2 hours right during the time I'm always ready to go. That drove me nuts. They are all franchises so I really couldn't do anything about that. The owner decided that was her least busy time and she had to run it herself. That's when she took her split-shift break because she was there until 7pm.

Cindy-- Okay, now you have to keep an eye on this study and report back. That's fascinating. If I ever got included in a study I'm sure they'd want me to poke myself in the eye twice a day to see if that had any effect on tear production for dry eye!!

Liza said...

Heart problems run in my family. I'm trying to eat better(less red meat, more veggies and fruit) and I go to the gym and walk at least 30 minutes 5 days a week. I'm working up to 7 days a week, but haven't made it yet. Plus I lift weights, to help get the weight off, 2-3 times a week. I also hired a trainer for a year to keep me motivated.

Susan Kay Law said...

Wow, loralee, so glad you feel well enough to post!

We have good hearts in my family. Other problems, though, and pretty much the same things work for those.

I eat pretty well, actually, though I could always use a way to work in a few more veggies. (Anybody have great recipes? My CSA starts soon, which I've never done before. Figure it'll make me branch out a bit.)

Cindy, for exercising . . . frankly, guilt is the only thing that works for me. Guilt of the dog, looking at me sadly while she nudges her leash. Guilt of having paid for a class, so I darn well better go.

I walk every single day. I doubt I've missed more than 1 every 2-3 months since we got the dog, less her. And I take pilates twice a week, which I enjoy very much mostly because I really like the other ladies in the class. IOW - I can't exercise alone!


Cindy Gerard said...

You guys are inspirational. And Susie, I hear you on the dog. We have an 11 month old pup. She loves to walk. I'm trying hard to be there for both her and me :o)

And Liza - a trainer. Wow! Now that's dedication. Way to go.

Eat well, people. Have your chocolate and do your exercises too. Guess that's the name of thee game.