Eating more chocolate could reduce the risk of developing heart disease by 37 per cent, a report in the British Medical Journal suggests.
Researchers at Cambridge University compiled an analysis after looking into seven studies of about 114,000 people and found that people who consumed the most chocolate had a 37 per cent lower risk of developing heart disease and a 29 per cent lower risk of suffering a stroke than those who consumed less chocolate.
The studies looked at the consumption of dark chocolate as well as milk chocolate, chocolate drinks and other chocolate confectionaries.
"Cocoa products containing flavonol have been known to have an encouraging potential to help prevent cardio-metabolic disorders," the report said.
Oscar Franco, a clinical lecturer in public health, and one of the authors of the report added that it is more than just one element in chocolate that makes it beneficial.
"[There are] antioxidants, flavonoids, it's many things that come together," Franco said. "What we see with elements is they are complex structures that have many factors, many chemicals that come together, interact with each other, so they can produce a beneficial effect."
The authors did not suggest a specific amount of chocolate to consume in order to lower the risk of cardio-metabolic disorders.
"We were not able to quantify the exact quantity or the frequency so how frequently you would [need to] consume chocolate," Franco said, "What we found were that the beneficial effects occur if you consume chocolate at least more than twice per week."
Although the analysis suggests a certain benefit to eating higher quantities of chocolate, eating too much chocolate can still have harmful effects, especially in popular, commercialized products that contain high sugar and fat which could lead to weight gain, a higher risk of hypertension, diabetes and general cardiovascular disorders.
"Moderation is key," Franco added. "Everything in excess will have a deleterious effect on your health."
Although the study seems to show that consumption of chocolate products seem to be associated with a "substantial reduction in the risk of cardio-metabolic disorders" Oscar Franco, a clinical lecturer in public health, along with this colleagues at Cambridge University said further experimental studies are needed.
Authors also do not advocate stopping regular and already established diets regarding the prevention of heart disease but rather the advice is to continue consuming high levels of fruits and less meat.
Franco suggests that the idea of finding a positive effect of chocolate isn't just a way of justifying the popular dessert but is a concept that "goes back centuries to the times of the Mayans and Aztecs" — groups who were known to use chocolate for a variety of purposes including prevention of heart problems, coughs and even aphrodisiacs.