It's official... chocolate IS good for you: Treats 'cut' diabetes, heart disease and stroke risk ~ chocolate desserts recipes | Healthy chocolate recipes | Raspberry angel cakes

Sunday, September 25, 2011

It's official... chocolate IS good for you: Treats 'cut' diabetes, heart disease and stroke risk

By Jenny Hope

Last updated at 12:56 AM on 30th August 2011

Eating chocolate could cut the risk of heart disease and stroke by a third, researchers have said.

But they remain baffled as to why, and believe some of the benefits could simply stem from the ‘feel-good’ effect of a tasty treat.

The biggest review ever carried out into the subject found that eating at least two pieces of chocolate a week is linked to a 37 per cent drop in the chances of developing cardiovascular disease. Those who indulged also saw a 29 per cent fall in the risk of stroke compared with those who ate fewer than two squares a week.

Dr Oscar Franco and his colleagues at Cambridge University reviewed seven studies on the effects of chocolate consumption on the heart, which involved 100,000 participants in total.

The studies included chocolate bars, drinks, biscuits and desserts, and did not differentiate between dark and milk.

The findings were presented at the European Society of Cardiology congress in Paris, and published in the British Medical Journal.

Dr Franco did not measure the exact amount that should be consumed, nor did he look at the best type, instead examining only how frequently it was eaten.

Dark chocolate is rated as more beneficial in some studies, he said, probably because it has high levels of cocoa solids.

Chocolate contains around 300 different chemicals, but attempts to isolate the most effective have so far failed. Dr Franco said: ‘Foods are complex and the different ingredients interact to produce an effect.

‘We know that eating chocolate releases endorphins in the brain so it may be a matter of chocolate improving people’s quality of life.’

But he added: ‘We are not recommending people start eating chocolate if they don’t already. Commercially available chocolate is high in calories, and sitting down and eating all you can in one go isn’t good for you.’

Victoria Taylor, of the British Heart Foundation, said: ‘Evidence does suggest chocolate might have some heart health benefits but we need to find out why.

‘If you want to reduce your heart disease risk, there are much better places to start than at the bottom of a box of chocolates.’

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