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The gourmand's heart - a bitter sweet relationship?

This session focused on summarizing the scientific evidence of the prevention of coronary heart disease (CHD) and /or stroke conferred by four common foods in the Western diet, namely tea, coffee, wine and chocolate.


Tea Presented by Prof Daan KROMHOUT (NL)

Based on results of the prospective Dutch cohort Zutphen Study, in which tea consumption, flavonol and catechin intake were studied and on two meta-analyses, it can be concluded that:

* Tea is inversely related to CHD in prospective cohort studies in continental Europe but positively in the UK
* Tea is inversely related to stroke in prospective cohort studies
*  Flavonols and catechins (strong antioxidants ) are the most likely explanation for the inverse association of tea with cardiovascular diseases
* Trials on intermediate and hard endpoints should be carried to support a causal association between tea and CVD

Coffee Presented by C VLACHOPOULOS, (GR)

Coffee does not increase the long term risk of CVD, not even in already established cardiovascular patients, although it might increase blood pressure. However, there exists an unfavourable interaction between coffee consumption and smoking. Caffeine ingested through forms different than coffee might have different type of effects and also the form of coffee preparation might influence the effects.

Wine Presented by G de GAETANO (IT)

Moderate consumption of alcohol, specially under the form of wine, reduces CVD risk, CVD mortality and total mortality in healthy people and in patients with a history of CVD . Maximal protection of about 2% is observed at 1-2 glasses/day in women and 2-4 glasses/day in men. Higher amounts of wine may be harmful.

Chocolate, A FLAMMER (CH)

Cocoa might exert several beneficial cardiovascular effects, like lowering blood pressure, improved endothelial function, improved insulin sensitivity and platelet function. Chocolate is not equal to cocoa. Unprocessed cocoa should be preferred as some of the antioxidant properties might be lost otherwise. Beneficial effects are observed in dark but not in white chocolate. Positive effects are mediated by increasing the nitric oxide bioavailability. However, more research is needed on the long term effects of dark chocolate and cocoa for which hard clinical endpoints will need to be collected.


Tea, wine and cocoa have shown beneficial cardiovascular effects. All these drinks have in common the presence of different poly-phenols with antioxidant properties. The beneficial effects of coffee are less clear due to the imperfect design of the studies. More long-term research and trials are needed to completely establish the mechanisms and optimal doses of these popular foods. Meanwhile a prudent recommendation might be: Take a coffee or cocoa drink for breakfast, drink green tea during the day, a glass of wine in the evening and … a piece of dark chocolate before going to bed !!!




The gourmand's heart - a bitter sweet relationship?

The content of this article reflects the personal opinion of the author/s and is not necessarily the official position of the European Society of Cardiology.