Good news for people with a sweet tooth.
New research has revealed that eating chocolate at least once a week could lower your risk of heart disease and keep blood vessels healthy.
US scientists from Baylor College of Medicine in Texas have concluded that people who regularly eat chocolate are eight per cent less likely to suffer heart disease compared to those who do not.
How does chocolate help?
The findings, which have been published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, show that helpful compounds in cocoa, known as ‘flavonoids’, are what raise levels of good cholesterol and boost blood vessel health while reducing inflammation.
Lead researcher, Dr Chayakrit Krittanawong, said, “Our study suggests that chocolate helps keep the heart’s blood vessels healthy.
“In the past, clinical studies have shown that chocolate is beneficial for both blood pressure and the lining of blood vessels.”
How much chocolate is recommended?
The scientists dedicated nine years to the study, in which they followed 336,289 adults as they reported on the amount of chocolate they consumed. However, unfortunately they did not research which specific type of chocolate or portion size was best for boosting one's health.
Dr Krittanawong said, "More research is needed to pinpoint how much and what kind of chocolate could be recommended.”
Yet it seems that the age old advice of ‘everything in moderation’ rings true, as Dr Krittanawong has warned indulging too frequently and eating large portion sizes was unlikely to be beneficial for anyone’s long-term health.
He explained, “Moderate amounts of chocolate seem to protect the coronary arteries but it’s likely that large quantities do not.
“The calories, sugar, milk, and fat in commercially available products need to be considered, particularly in diabetics and obese people.”
Criticism from British Heart Foundation
Senior Dietitian at the British Heart Foundation, Victoria Taylor, criticised the study, saying, “Although this review suggests that chocolate can keep the heart’s blood vessels healthy, it does have its limitations.
“It didn’t consider what else participants were eating or the risk factors for heart and circulatory diseases that people might have had, so the results aren’t conclusive enough for us to recommend eating chocolate for health reasons.
“We already know that there may be beneficial compounds found in cocoa, but the chocolate products that we most commonly buy in the UK usually contain very little cocoa.
“All chocolate is high in calories because of its fat and sugar content and eating too much of it can lead to weight gain, which isn’t good for our heart and circulatory health.”
In the UK, roughly 2.3 million people have heart disease, with 1.5 million male and 830,000 female sufferers.
Approximately 64,000 people in the UK die from the condition each year. It is caused by a build-up of fat in key arteries blocking the heart's blood supply.