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Chocolate reduces cardiovascular risk by 40%

By Lilian Anekwe

Eating chocolate could reduce blood pressure and cardiovascular disease risk, according to an epidemiological study in the European Heart Journal.

Researchers measured the dietary intake, including chocolate, and blood pressure of nearly 20,000 participants in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer trial, followed up for a mean of eight years.

Those who ate the most amount of chocolate – an average of 7.5g a day – had significantly lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure than those with the lowest chocolate consumption of 1.7g a day – a difference of 1.0mmHg systolic and 0.9mmHg diastolic.

This was the equivalent of a 39% lower risk of having a heart attack or stroke compared to those who ate the least amount of chocolate. The difference between the two groups amounts to six grams of chocolate: the equivalent of less than one small square of a 100g bar.

Dr Brian Buijsse, a nutritional epidemiologist at the German Institute of Human Nutrition who led the research said: ‘To put it in terms of absolute risk, if people in the group eating the least amount of chocolate increased their chocolate intake by 6g a day, 85 fewer heart attacks and strokes per 10,000 people could be expected to occur over a period of about ten years.'

European Heart Journal, published online 30 March 2010

Chocolate (credit: flickr darwin bell)