A daily dose of cocoa could reduce the risk of developing bowel cancer, according to scientists.
Researchers tested the effects of cocoa on mice to see if incorporating it into their diet could prevent them from developing bowel cancer when exposed to tumour-causing chemicals.
One group of mice was fed with a daily diet consisting of 12% of cocoa for eight weeks while another was given no cocoa.
All of the rats were exposed to the carcinogenic chemical, azoxymethane, to induce the onset of colon cancer.
While both groups began to develop intestinal cancer, those that had been fed with cocoa had fewer pre-cancerous legions than those in the control group.
Dr Maria Arribas, of the Science and Technology Institute of Food and Nutrition in Spain, who led the latest study, said: “Foods like cocoa, which is rich in polyphenols, seems to play an important role in protecting against disease.”
The findings were published in Molecular Nutrition and Food Research.
The next step will be to investigate whether cocoa could benefit humans in the same way.
But while an excuse to eat chocolate every day is always welcome, Sarah Williams from Cancer Research UK warns that too much of the sweet stuff could have a negative effect.
Commenting on the study, she told the Daily Mail: “This study involved rats in the lab who were fed very large quantities of cocoa over a number of weeks, so it’s impossible to conclude that that eating chocolate or drinking cocoa protects people against bowel cancer.
“But we do know that chocolate is high in fat and calories, so eating too much of it could lead you to put on weight.
“And being obese has been shown to increase the risk of bowel cancer, so eating lots of chocolate is unlikely to be a good way to cut the risk.”
Eating dark chocolate could help control diabetes and blood pressure, according to an Italian study. Researchers found that eating 100g of dark chocolate each day for 15 days lowered blood pressure. The same study found that chocolate improved the body's ability to metabolise sugar.
Chocolate is packed with antioxidants, which protect the body from environmental stress. In fact, ounce for ounce, the sweet stuff contains more antioxidants, than blueberries and green tea.
Chocolate is a rich source of magnesium, which may help reduce the risk of chronic illnesses, such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease. It also contains iron and potassium, linked to a reduced risk of blood pressure and stroke.
Although it is frequently lumped in the same category as cakes and pastries, when it comes to sugar content, dark chocolate surprisingly has a low glycemic index which means it won't send your blood sugar levels soaring then crashing.
Chocolate contains a compound, Phenylethylamine (PEA) that releases feelgood chemicals called endorphins in the brain. The same chemicals are released when you fall in love. Another benefit: man replacement?