Eating chocolate may be good for heart health, according to a new study.
The research suggests people who eat three chocolate bars every month have a 13% lower risk of heart failure compared to those who eat none.
But it’s all (sadly) about moderation: the study also suggests eating chocolate every day can have the opposite effect and increase a person’s risk of heart failure by 17%.
The latest research, conducted by the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai hospital in New York, analysed data from five previous studies involving more than 570,000 people.
The researchers believe the positive effect may be due to chemicals present in chocolate, called flavonoids, which have previously been shown to lower blood pressure, increase good cholesterol and reduce inflammation in the body. Dark chocolate is higher in flavonoids than milk or white chocolate.
The findings were presented at the European Society of Cardiology conference in Munich.
“I believe that chocolate is an important dietary source of flavonoids which are associated with reducing inflammation and increasing good cholesterol,” lead researcher Dr Chayakrit Krittanawong said at the conference, according to The Telegraph.
“Most importantly, flavonoids can increase nitric oxide [a gas which expands blood vessels, helping circulation]. However, chocolate may have high levels of saturated fats. I would say moderate dark chocolate consumption is good for health.”
Previous studies have also linked chocolate to improvements in heart health, with a study in the British Medical Journal last year suggesting eating the sweet stuff in moderation can reduce the risk of irregular heartbeat.
But Victoria Taylor, senior dietitian at The British Heart Foundation, has previously cautioned that not all chocolate is created equal.
“We know that the cocoa that chocolate contains can come with compounds that have been associated with heart health benefits. However, the type of chocolate that we eat most of in the UK will also come with plenty of sugar and saturated fat,” she said.
“So while there is no reason why we can’t enjoy a bit of chocolate as part of a balanced diet, it’s probably not a dietary strategy to rely on exclusively to reduce your risk of a heart attack or stroke.”