Study Links This Guilty Pleasure to Heart Health

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If you’re a chocolate lover, this news will make you happy: Research has shown that eating more chocolate lowers your risk of heart attacks and stroke.

A British study conducted by researchers from the University of Aberdeen found that people who eat up to 3.5 ounces of chocolate a day – which is about two Hershey’s bars – are 11 percent less likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease and they enjoy a 25 percent lower risk of associated death compared to people who don’t eat chocolate.

The chocolate study was based on the findings of the EPIC-Norfolk study, which tracked the long-term impact of diet on the health of about 21,000 adults in Norfolk, England.

Although dark chocolate has long been touted for improving heart health, this study found that the beneficial health effects may apply to milk chocolate as well, because it was consumed more frequently by study participants.

“Our results are somewhat surprising since the expectation was that benefits of chocolate consumption would be mainly associated with dark chocolate,” the study said.

Researchers noted that higher levels of chocolate consumption were also associated with good health by other measures, including BMI (body mass index), waist:hip ratio, systolic blood pressure and inflammatory proteins.

But before you go stuff your face with chocolate in the name of good health, a word of caution: this was an observational study, so researchers have merely found a link, not a definitive conclusion about cause and effect.

Charles Mueller, clinical assistant professor of nutrition at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, told The Washington Post that it’s possible that the chocolate eaters in the study also engage in other behaviors or eat other foods that have heart benefits.

“Cocoa beans are not unlike red peppers, green peppers and broccoli and stuff like that. They are full of phytochemicals that are good for you,” Mueller said. “But if you are overweight, and you are thinking of protecting yourself by eating chocolate you are being kind of silly. Chocolate is just one small element in a full range of a good diet.”

Everything in moderation, right?

Still, the researchers write in the study: “Cumulative evidence reported in this study suggests that high chocolate consumption may be associated with cardiovascular benefit.”

Are you a chocoholic? What do you think of the study’s findings? Share your comments below.

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