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Good news for chocolate lovers

Chocolate may be good for you in small bits and preferably if it's dark, says research. Just one small square of chocolate a day can lower your blood pressure and reduce the risk of...

health and fitness Updated: Apr 01, 2010 19:10 IST

ChocolateChocolate may be good for you - at least in small bits and preferably if it's dark, according to new research.

It shows just one small square of chocolate a day can lower your blood pressure (BP) and reduce the risk of heart disease.

Researchers in Germany followed 19,357 people, aged between 35 and 65, for at least 10 years and found that those who ate the most amount of chocolate - or 7.5 grams a day - had lower blood pressure.

They also had a 39 percent lower risk of having a heart attack or stroke, compared to those who ate only 1.7 grams a day.

The difference between the two groups amounts to six grams of chocolate: the equivalent of less than one small square of a 100g bar.

Brian Buijsse, nutritional epidemiologist at the German Institute of Human Nutrition, Germany, who led the research, said: "People who ate the most amount of chocolate were at a 39 percent lower risk than those with the lowest chocolate intakes.

To put it in terms of absolute risk, if people in the group eating the least amount of chocolate (of whom 219 per 10,000 had a heart attack or stroke) increased their chocolate intake by six grams a day, 85 fewer heart attacks and strokes per 10,000 people could be expected to occur over a period of about 10 years.

However, he warned that it was important people ensured that eating chocolate did not increase their overall intake of calories or reduce their consumption of healthy foods.

"Small amounts of chocolate may help to prevent heart disease, but only if it replaces other energy-dense food, such as snacks, in order to keep body weight stable," he said.

The people in the study were participants in the Potsdam arm of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer (EPIC).

They received medical checks, including blood pressure, height and weight measurements at the start of the study between 1994-1998, and they also answered questions about their diet, lifestyle and health, says a German Institute release.