Eating high levels of chocolate could reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke by about a third according to a review of previous research, published by the British Medical Journal.
But the researchers warned that excessive consumption of chocolate would result in other illnesses, and the British Heart Foundation said there were better ways to protect the heart.
Scientists from Cambridge University compared risks to the brain and heart in groups of people who reported eating low levels of chocolate, fewer than two bars per week, with those eating higher levels – more than two bars per week.
And their results showed that the, “highest levels of chocolate consumption were associated with a 37% reduction in cardiovascular disease and a 29% reduction in stroke compared with the lowest levels”.
Dr Oscar Franco, one of the researchers, said that chocolate was also known to decrease blood pressure. He told the BBC the findings were “promising”, but needed further research to confirm any protective effect.
Victoria Taylor, senior heart health dietician at the British Heart Foundation, said: “Evidence does suggest chocolate might have some heart health benefits but we need to find out why that might be.”
So further research is required to find out what about chocolate is providing these beneficial outcomes, and potentially to discover if one type of chocolate is better than another. Other studies have shown that plain chocolate can be good for you – but only in small amounts, unfortunately.
The Cambridge study also warns that chocolate can lead to weight gain and Type 2 diabetes. It suggested that chocolate could one day be used to protect from heart problems and stroke – if the sugar and fat content of chocolate bars was reduced.
Chocolate without fat and sugar? Doesn’t sound too appealing, does it?