Eating a small amount of dark
chocolate every day could be good for you, scientists say.
A study has found that a regular 2oz dose can lower blood
pressure and reduce the risk of having a heart attack or stroke - without any
But before you reach for the king-size bar, beware. The effects are cancelled
out if more than 30 calories are consumed each day, the researchers warn.
It was already known that chemicals in chocolate called polyphenols can
reduce blood pressure.
But the German study shows that the fat content does not cancel out the
beneficial effects - at least where small portions are concerned.
Blood pressure lowered in this way could reduce the risk of death from a
stroke by 8 per cent and from coronary artery disease by 5 per cent, the
University of Cologne scientists found. It would also reduce risk of death
generally by 4 per cent.
A daily diet of a little chocolate had the same effect as more complicated
diets designed to lower blood pressure, according to the authors of the study,
published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
"Although the magnitude of the blood pressure reduction was small, the
effects are clinically noteworthy," they said. "Adoption of small amounts of
flavanol-rich cocoa into the habitual diet is a dietary modification that is
easy to adhere to, and therefore may be a promising behavioural approach to
lower blood pressure in individuals with above-optimal blood pressure."
However, Sara Stanner, a nutritionist at the British Heart Foundation, was
"This study suggests that small quantities of dark chocolate might have
beneficial effects on blood pressure. However, it is important to remember that
chocolate is also high in fat and calories - so over-indulgence is not good for
Polyphenols are also found in fruit and vegetables - and can be consumed
without the risks associated with over-indulging, she added.