A little bit of what you fancy is good for you – and mounting evidence suggests that includes chocolate.
For while the melt-in-your-mouth treat is usually packed with sugar, fat and calories and is seen as the ultimate food sin, research suggests it has health benefits ranging from reducing cardiovascular problems and inflammation to improving mood.
On the flip side, anti-obesity campaigners point out that the evidence is flimsy, whereas there can be no doubt that obesity causes health problems, and eating lots of chocolate is likely to make people pile on the pounds.
The latest research assessed more than 2,000 people at high risk of heart disease and found that daily consumption of 100g of dark chocolate – equating to one premium-quality block containing a minimum 70 per cent cocoa – could prevent 70 non-fatal and 15 fatal cardiovascular events, such as heart attack or stroke, per 10,000 people over a 10-year period.
The researchers point out that dark chocolate contains polyphenols, specifically flavonoids from the cocoa bean, which are thought to help reduce blood pressure and have anti-inflammatory, antithrombotic and metabolic effects.
The research is the latest in a long line of studies that have found that chocolate may actually be beneficial when it comes to cardiovascular health.