Good news – it’s Ok to eat chocolate – provided you do so in moderation. That’s according to the latest research.

A recent study, published in the European Heart Journal, looked at over 19,000 people and found those who ate half a bar a week had lower blood pressure. And that’s not all – they also had a 39% lower risk of heart attacks and strokes.

The study, over an eight year period, looked at the chocolate consumption of middle-aged men and women. It compared the health of those who ate the most and least chocolate.

The difference between these two groups was just six grams a day, equivalent to one small square of chocolate a day.

Dr Brian Buijsse, from the German Institute of Human Nutrition, Nuthetal said: “Our hypothesis was that because chocolate appears to have a pronounced effect on blood pressure, therefore chocolate consumption would lower the risk of strokes and heart attacks, with a stronger effect being seen for stroke.”

And rather handily for those that love chocolate that is exactly what the study found; those who ate more chocolate cut their risk of heart attacks by around a quarter, and of stroke by nearly half, compared with those who ate the least.

“Small amounts of chocolate may help to prevent heart disease, but only if it replaces other energy-dense food, such as snacks, in order to keep body weight stable,” added Dr Buijsse.

As usual dark chocolate is considered better than milk chocolate, as the researchers believe that flavanols in cocoa may be the reason why chocolate seems to be good for blood pressure and heart health, and as there is more cocoa in dark chocolate, dark chocolate probably has a greater effect.

However heart campaigners are not convinced and have warned that too much chocolate is damaging because it is loaded with calories and saturated fat, which are linked to weight gain and raised cholesterol levels; two of the key risk factors for heart disease.

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About the Author: Chantal Cooke is a professional journalist, chocolate lover and co-founder of PASSION for the PLANET

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