Chocolate fends off stroke and heart disease

Dark chocolate is considered to be healthier than milk, and moderation is key. Picture: Getty/iStockphoto

Dark chocolate is considered to be healthier than milk, and moderation is key. Picture: Getty/iStockphoto

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IT is the sweetest news that all of us should cocoa.

A bar or two of chocolate a day can help stave off the risk of heart disease, according to a new study which shows the treat is not all bad for you.

“Of course there are setbacks to eating chocolate”

Prof Phyo Myint

In news that will cheer chocoholics, a team of Scottish scientists have found that enjoying up to 100 grams of the delicacy every day reduces your chances of developing cardiovascular disease or suffering a stroke.

The research, led by academics at Aberdeen University, also suggests that contrary to popular opinion, there is no evidence that cutting out chocolate altogether helps lower the risk of heart disease.

The wide-ranging study, based on the dietary and lifestyle information of tens of thousands of people, showed that those who ate the confectionary regularly were the most active and had a lower body mass index.

However, the team behind the report urged caution, pointing out that dark chocolate is healthier than its milk equivalent.

Anyone who overindulges in either type, they added, still had to keep an eye on their intake of far, sugar and calories.

The researchers at Aberdeen carried out the work with the help of academics from across England, scrutinising the questionnaire results from 25,000 people in Norfolk who were asked about what kind of food they ate and how often.

They then combined the findings with a review of all of the available evidence published internationally on the links between chocolate and cardiovascular disease, involving almost 158,000 people.

The findings, published in the online journal Heart, reveal that those who frequently ate chocolate were found to be more active, younger and had a lower body mass index.

Around 20 per cent of participants said they did not eat any chocolate, but among the others, daily consumption averaged seven grams, with some eating up to 100 grams.

Chocolate was also associated with a nine per cent lower risk of hospital admission or death as a result of coronary heart disease, after taking account of dietary factors.

Those with highest chocolate intake were found to be 23 per cent less likely to have a stroke, even after taking account of other potential risk factors.

The regular consumption of chocolate as part of a balanced diet was also linked to a 25 per cent lower risk of cardiovascular disease and a 45 per cent lower risk of associated death.

Professor Phyo Myint, from the school of medicine and dentistry at Aberdeen University, said the research highlighted the health benefits of eating chocolate, but emphasised the need for moderation.

“The research observed there are components in chocolate such as cocoa, which has flavonoids also found in red wine, which are associated with lowering blood pressure and cholesterol,” he said. “Not only flavonoids, but also other compounds, possibly related to milk constituents, such as calcium and fatty acids, may provide an explanation for the association.

“Some of the research also shows chocolate can lower a person’s chance of getting blood clots.”

He added: “Of course, there are obvious setbacks with eating chocolate all the time and that comes from the consumption of fat, sugar and calories. I must stress that those who ate chocolate, in the study, did so in moderation, only eating around 17 grams a day or 100 grams a week.

“I, personally, prefer eating dark chocolate, but if I wanted a bit more sugar and energy then I would go for milk chocolate.”

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