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Two Bars of Chocolate A Day Keeps Stroke Away

In a recent study published in the British Medical Journal, health experts have claimed that that eating up to two bars a day appears to protect against heart disease and stroke.

It is the latest research to highlight the another added benefit of chocolate which has also been shown to reduce memory loss, prevent diabetes, reduce stress, protect the skin against sun damage and lower cholesterol.

Although dark chocolate has long been known to have health benefits, the new study found that milk chocolate may also provide valuable nutrients which lower the chance of heart problems.

The study was conducted by heart researchers at the University of Aberdeen looked at the snacking habits of 21,000 people over 12 years. They found that eating up to 100g of chocolate every day lowered the risk of dying from heart disease during that time by 25 per cent. The chance of suffering a stroke also fell by 23 per cent.

Around one in five (20%) participants said they did not eat any chocolate but among those that did, daily consumption averaged 7g with some eating up to 100g.

Those who ate the most also were also found to be younger, have a lower weight, waist to hip ratio and blood pressure, and were less likely to have diabetes and more likely to carry out regular physical activity  - all of which add up to a favourable cardiovascular disease risk profile according to the researchers said.

The researchers also carried out a review of the available published evidence on the links between chocolate and cardiovascular disease, involving almost 158,000 people.

In each of the relevant studies they found a significantly lower risk stroke and heart disease associated with regular chocolate consumption.

The researchers however suggested that the findings could be partially skewed by mis-reporting of food intake or the fact that people with a higher heart disease risk profile eat less chocolate and foods containing it than those who are healthier.

Professor Phyo Myint, Chair in Old Age Medicine at Aberdeen University, said: "Our study concludes that cumulative evidence suggests higher chocolate intake is associated with a lower risk of future cardiovascular events."

Commenting on the study Professor Naveed Sattar, of the University of Glasfow said: “It may be that some folk are, perhaps substantially, under-reporting how much chocolate they eat since they really do not wish to tell the truth because they know they should try to avoid high density calories like chocolate.

“I would not be rushing out to buy chocolate for a treat – rather, if peckish, a piece or two of fruit is far better, and comes from nature itself.”

Despite agreeing that new study added to growing evidence that chocolate could be beneficial to health health experts warned against over indulging.

Dr Tim Chico, Reader in Cardiovascular Medicine and Consultant Cardiologist at the University of Sheffield, said: “These studies taken together suggest that there might be some health benefits from eating chocolate.

“However, it is also clear that chocolate has the potential to increase weight, which is unequivocally bad for cardiovascular health.

“The message I take from this study is that if you are a healthy weight, then eating chocolate (in moderation) does not detectibly increase risk of heart disease and may even have some benefit.”

"There is evidence from other studies that have randomised people to be given chocolate that this can have effects that might reduce cardiovascular disease, such as a reduction in blood pressure.

"I would not advise my patients to increase their chocolate intake based on this research, particularly if they are overweight."

Dr Shamim Quadir, Research Communications Manager at the Stroke Association, said: “While this study builds on previous research and suggests a link between a higher intake of chocolate (up to 100g per day) and lower risk of stroke, it is very hard to establish a single dietary component that will have a positive, or negative, effect on the health of an individual.

“We all can reduce our risk of stroke by exercising regularly, consuming a healthy, balanced diet and getting our blood pressure checked.”

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