The health benefits of chocolate, redux

chocolateChocoholics rejoice!

The evidence is growing even stronger that regularly eating chocolate is good for your health. A new study and systematic review published in the journal Heart confirmed previous evidence: habitual chocolate eaters have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and strokes compared to people who don’t eat chocolate.

In the latest study, more than 20,000 men and women in England completed food-frequency questionnaires for 12 years. The study found that eating chocolate lowered cardiovascular risk by 11 percent, and lowered risk of hospital admission or death of coronary heart disease by 9 percent.

As part of the analysis, participants were divided into groups based on how much chocolate they ate. The group that lowered their heart risk the most ate between 16 to 100 grams of chocolate per day. To put that in perspective, a Hershey kiss contains about 5 grams of chocolate.

The report also includes a meta analysis that analyzed nine studies with a total of more than 150,000 participants.  This analysis found that regular chocolate consumption was associated with a significant lower risk of both heart disease and stroke.

Scientists believe that chemicals in the cocoa bean, called polyphenols, may help protect against heart disease by strengthening artery walls. But the authors note the limitations of the evidence:  these studies only make an association; they don’t prove cause-and-effect.

Still the latest study makes a pretty convincing case: Eating chocolate can help to improve your heart health. Of course, pure cocoa is the most beneficial. But studies found that even chocolate with added sugar, milk and fat offered some cardiovascular benefits. So dig in!

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