Another day, another welcome study assuring us chocolate really is good for our health.
This time scientists have found evidence to suggest the sweet stuff could protect the heart – and unlike previous studies this one is based on numerous clinical trials as opposed to observational evidence.
The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, analysed changes in blood pressure, cholesterol and other heart risk factors of participants, some of whom were given small amounts of cocoa-rich chocolate and some of whom were not.
The study of 1,300 people combined the results of 42 clinical trials and found those who were fed chocolate or cocoa had improved blood vessel function and revealed a dip in insulin levels.
Researcher Lee Hooper of Norwich Medical School said: “My takeaway message would be that if people like dark chocolate, then eating a little in place of other ‘treat’ foods is fine and may be beneficial. However, the evidence is not yet good enough to suggest that we should all be doing this.”
Previous studies have found that regular chocolate consumption can lower heart risks such as high blood pressure. However, these were observational studies.
Experts believe compounds called flavonoids, found in chocolate and a wealth of other foods, could be responsible for the positive findings. However, the researchers admitted the limitations of the study as the trials were small.
Victoria Taylor, at the British Heart Foundation, told The Express: “This review, though interesting, is not a cue to overindulge our sweet tooth. The paper suggests that there may be heart health benefits from consumption of cocoa or dark chocolate, but these findings are not conclusive.
“What also remains unanswered is whether these benefits outweigh the negative aspects of chocolate on our health from the saturated fat and calories that will also come with it.”
In case you needed further justification for giving in to your cravings...
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?