Heart experts from all over Europe and the world met in Munich, Germany last August 30 to September 3 to share the latest research findings on cardiovascular sciences at the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) Congress 2008. Today and in the coming days, I will be presenting some extracts from reports presented at the Congress.
One of the most interesting presentations under the topic “Cardiovascular Disease Prevention – Risk Assessment and Management” is entitled “The gourmand’s heart – a bitter sweet relationship?” where Spanish heart expert S.S. Menendez summarized the latest updates on the health effects of four common food and drinks in the Western diet, namely tea, coffee, wine and chocolate.
Dutch researchers reported that tea showed beneficial effects on cardiovascular health in many studies (but not all) conducted in Europe. The substances responsible for the positive effects are most likely the strong oxidants flavonols and catechins found in tea.
The caffeinholics among us will immediately ask – what about coffee? Greek researchers reported that coffee does not increase the long-term risk for developing cardiovascular disease. Nor does it worsen existing conditions of CVD. However, coffee consumption may increase blood pressure and interact with cigarette smoking, leading to adverse effects. Also, the health effects of coffee may differ depending on the type of coffee and the way it is prepared.
Researchers from the land of chocolate – Switzerland – reported about the positive effects of cocoa. Cocoa benefits cardiovascular health by “lowering blood pressure, improved endothelial function, improved insulin sensitivity and platelet function.” However, these effects are only true for unprocessed cocoa from the cacao beans but not necessarily for the chocolate goodies you see in Swiss confectionaries. Processing of cacao may lead to loss of its antioxidant properties.
Now, the list won’t be complete without touching on wine. Italian researchers reported that moderate alcohol consumption reduces CVD risk, CVD mortality and total mortality in healthy people and in patients with a history of CVD. Wine, especially, should be alcoholic drink of your choice. For maximum cardiovascular protection, 1 to 2 glasses per day for women and 2 to 4 glasses per day for men are recommended. However, overconsumption of alcohol can lead to major health problems as discussed in a previous post.
In conclusion, tea, cocoa, and wine showed beneficial effects on cardiovascular health but the effect of coffee is not clear. As parting shot, the author gives the following prudent recommendation: